"There are still signs of strong activity in the market even though some of the heat has come out of it, and mortgage brokers remain exceptionally busy."
On a seasonally adjusted basis there were 109,210 transactions, 5.1% lower than May 2021 and 1.3% higher than April 2022.
Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: "There are still signs of strong activity in the market even though some of the heat has come out of it, and mortgage brokers remain exceptionally busy.
"Yet another in a string of rate rises from the Bank of England is certainly focusing the minds of borrowers, keen to secure a fixed rate mortgage before pricing edges higher.
"Service levels vary considerably between lenders, and it can take time to get a mortgage approved, particularly if the application is complex or the borrower is self-employed. Buyers who are competing for a hotly-contested property should seek advice from a broker to ensure they are not disappointed."
Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent and former RICS residential chairman, commented: "Transactions, which are probably a better measure of market health than more volatile prices, are often the last to reflect change. The protracted period between the date a sale is agreed and completion means we can wait several months to notice something is up.
"Previous falls in sale numbers could partly have been blamed on shortage of stock but we are now finding, at the sharp end, a softening in demand prompted principally by the rise in inflation, as well as uncertainty as to when it will end.
"That lack of choice, combined with low unemployment and rising wages, mean no major corrections are expected."
Joshua Elash, director of MT Finance, said: "Transactional activity in the residential market continues to be stable. It’s impressive that transaction numbers are only marginally down on May last year, a time when stamp duty exemption initiatives encouraged a great deal of activity. This speaks directly to the underlying supply and demand gap which has, and will continue, to drive stability and growth in the market.
"The data demonstrates that the market yet again continues to weather the macro-economic storm raging as inflation and the cost-of-living crisis bites in other sectors. The decision by the Bank of England to end mandatory stress-testing will ensure that this trend continues in the months ahead."
Anna Clare Harper, director of real estate technology platform IMMO, added: "Housing transactions are important because they drive house prices, which both reflect and affect our confidence, and the economy.
"These transaction numbers make sense for two reasons: firstly, the desire to buy or sell is lower than this time last year. Secondly, the desire to hold onto property is greater.
"Last year’s temporary stamp duty reduction encouraged homeowners to upgrade and aspiring homeowners to get on the housing ladder. This boosted transactions substantially. In fact, the monetary value of average house-price growth far outweighed the monetary value of that reduction in tax, but this was not a barrier due to widely available, cheap mortgage finance, which funds property acquisitions but not transaction taxes. With stamp duty back, the desire to transact is reduced.
"What’s more, homeowners and investors alike feel safe owning residential property, since it tends to hold its value well through times of uncertainty and risk, as we are in.
"All of this is a problem for the market, since there are negative social implications of people holding on to poor quality, environmentally-inefficient housing rather than selling it onto a new owner who could improve it, and make the most of the asset.
"It adds fuel to the fire of the biggest problem in the market right now: the shortage of quality housing stock to purchase or for rent."