Property transactions were resilient throughout 2016

 
Helen Cahill
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Tax changes resulted in a spike in transactions in March (Source: Getty)

The number of property transactions fell 8.5 per cent year-on-year in December 2016 - but over the year as a whole, the market was resilient.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs shows that there were 1,231,120 residential transactions last year, ahead of the number of transactions in both 2014 (1,225,120) and 2015 (1,225,970).

However, the distribution of property transactions was skewed dramatically last year, as landlords bought up properties before the higher rate of stamp duty on second homes came into effect at the beginning of April.

Read more: First time buyer mortgage borrowing increases as stamp duty bites landlords

This created a spike in transactions in March - the highest number of transactions made within a single month for the last ten years.

Brian Murphy, head of lending for the Mortgage Advice Bureau said the growth in home sales showed that "consumer confidence in bricks and mortar remains consistent".

"Of course, we won’t have sight of the January transaction figures until the third week in February, so it’s a bit too early to tell in terms of this trend continuing into 2017," Murphy said. "But given borrower activity in December, it’s possible to suggest that many would-be purchasers were getting their ducks in a row before Christmas, ready to transact in the New Year."

Ishaan Malhi, chief executive of online mortgage broker Trussle, said:

Property transactions may have increased in December, but the number of homes being bought and sold is still significantly down from last year. Stamp duty rises may have exaggerated the decline, but the underlying issue is that there are simply too few homes to go around.

This is pushing prices up at a rate which is completely out of step with wage growth and consumer spending power, and aspiring homeowners are being left behind.