"Figures such as those from the HMRC which record actual property transactions are much more relevant than rival indices reflecting price changes"
Residential property transactions increased by 0.5% between February and March, following a 0.7% drop the previous month, according to seasonally adjusted estimates from HMRC.
March's seasonally adjusted figure is 40.9% lower compared with the same month last year due to the unusually high transaction count in March 2016 ahead of the introduction of the higher rates on additional properties in April 2016.
HMRC says non-tax factors may also have caused changes in the property market, such as the Bank of England's plans to curb Buy-to-Let mortgages resulting in a rush to purchase before April 2016, and the EU Referendum affecting transactions in the following months. The residential count includes properties paying the main and additional rates.
For March 2017 the number of non-adjusted residential transactions was about 20.9% higher compared with February 2017, however HMRC reiterated in its data that no direct comparison should be made between March 2016 and March 2017.
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, said: "Figures such as those from the HMRC which record actual property transactions are much more relevant than rival indices reflecting price changes because they more accurately depict the health of the housing market rather than simply make people feel better about themselves.
"While the HMRC figures reflect what was happening in the market maybe two or three months ago, nonetheless they show the market was fairly steady at that time and that buyers and sellers are getting on with moving when they can.
"It will take a while for the hiccup in the market caused by the stamp duty surcharge introduced this time last year to ease but overall the market seems in good health and unlikely to be swayed too much by the General Election at this stage."
Monica Bradley, Managing Director of Monica Bradley Associates, commented: “The data from HMRC this morning underscores what many in the market already knew, which is that although we didn’t see the bumper number of transactions this March compared with 2016, and that was absolutely to be expected, but we’ve still had a strong start to 2017, regardless of what’s going on in the news.
"Certainly the figures were up on the so-called ‘normal’ Q1 of 2015, and that in itself represents the fact that consumers are carrying on with their lives and remaining confident in bricks and mortar as a good long term investment.”