"This was recently one of the property market’s most hotly watched data sets but what a difference a month makes."
There were 103,870 residential property transactions in February, 4.5% higher than in January and 6% higher than February 2019, according to the latest data from HMRC.
Joseph Daniels, founder of offsite eco developer Project Etopia, commented: “This was recently one of the property market’s most hotly watched data sets but what a difference a month makes.
“The HMRC transaction statistics are impressive, but unfortunately largely irrelevant now with signs that a freeze in activity is inevitably going to affect the consumer end of the market.
“The government is rightly preoccupied with the pandemic at the moment, with Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick and others called into action to help organise the government’s responses. So far that has included working to introduce a ban on evicting tenants who can’t pay their rent and mortgage holidays.
“But, as hard it is to imagine now, things will improve and in the coming weeks it is hoped figures including housing minister Christopher Pincher will be able to turn their attention back to those areas of the economy that were deeply affected by the virus without being critical to life."
Jeremy Leaf, former RICS residential chairman, said: "Although virus news is dominating all business at the moment and rightly so, property transaction numbers are always more interesting than volatile house prices and these are no exception. They show the market was picking up steadily, reflecting activity from the previous few months, just when the bombshell hit.
"This will give property professionals hope that if most buyers and sellers are able to press the pause rather than the stop button, and not too many of the fundamentals change, there may be some good business to return to in hopefully the not-too-distant future."
Anna Clare Harper, co-founder of property fund Anglo Residential, added: "Residential property transactions picked up in February, reflecting improved confidence from greater certainty around Brexit. However, this uptick is likely to be eclipsed by the impact of Coronavirus on market confidence in the short to medium-term.
"The investors we work with continue to remain positive about the long-term prospects in the residential property market, though in the short-term they are also focused on ensuring cash buffers are adequate and risks are well-managed. There is a buying opportunity for long-term investors with the appetite and set-up."