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UK house sales outlook weakest on record as Brexit nears: RICS

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A measure of expected British house sales over the next three months was the weakest on record in December as Brexit approached, a survey of property valuers showed on Thursday.

[LONDON] A measure of expected British house sales over the next three months was the weakest on record in December as Brexit approached, a survey of property valuers showed on Thursday.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said the net balance of -28 among surveyors about the short-term outlook for housing sales was the weakest in the 20 years it has been asking the question.

Britain's housing market has slowed since the June 2016 Brexit referendum with house prices, as measured by mortgage lenders Halifax and Nationwide, growing at the slowest pace in around five years.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS' chief economist, said December's fall in price expectations was linked to Brexit uncertainty which has deepened further in recent days when Prime Minister Theresa May suffered a major defeat in parliament on her plan for taking Britain out of the European Union.

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Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29 and there is still no clarity on whether or not it will exit with a transition deal to smooth the shock to the economy.

"Looking a little further out, there is some comfort provided by the suggestion that transactions nationally should stabilise as some of the fog lifts, but that moment feels a way off for many respondents to the survey," Rubinsohn said.

RICS' measure of house prices in December was its weakest since August 2012 at -19, below the median forecast of -13 in a Reuters poll of economists.

Prices were expected to remain flat over the next 12 months with the exception of London and south east where they have been falling, RICS said.

REUTERS