In addition, unsold properties per branch increased by an average of just one, indicating that the pace of sales agreed has picked up to nearly cancel out the spring sellers who normally increase agents’ stock levels at this time of year.
Rightmove director Miles Shipside said: "The falling time on the market and stable spring stock levels would normally point to a healthy housing market.
"However, this year’s celebrations will be severely muted by the knots the market has found itself tied up in. This month’s number of sellers, still handcuffed by a lack of equity, has managed to limp just ahead of the number of deposit-shackled
buyers, but the market is still restrained by low transaction volumes and restricted liquidity."
The dearth of new listings and increased sales activity have helped to restrict buyer choice in certain segments of the market.
Unsold stock per estate agency branch has risen by an average of just one property, from 69 to 70, when a larger increase would normally be expected at this time of year.
Search activity on Rightmove broke previous records in three out of the four weeks of February, and this increase in market activity no doubt influenced estate agents to raise new sellers’ average asking prices by a further 0.8% to £231,790.
The increase is likely to have been driven by the continuing scarcity of new sellers who can afford to trade up. In spite of the costs of marketing being reduced by the suspension of Home Information Packs, property coming to market is up by just 5% on the same period last year – and is still down by 26% on 2007’s pre-credit-crunch level.
The average weekly listing figure is 27,815 and, while a little higher than the 26,446 of a year ago, it is still well down on the March 2007 weekly average of 37,667.
The restricted level of new listings indicates a lack of both forced sellers and traditional mass market sellers who are currently unable or unwilling to come to market.
Shipside said: "The spring bounce in buyer interest and slight pick-up in supply of fresh stock suggest that renewed activity in some sectors of the property market is managing to outweigh the impact of economic uncertainty and lack of mortgage funding. Some buyers and sellers still have the winning formula to satisfy their housing needs, though with the prerequisites for a successful move being severely limited for a fourth successive year, this protracted lack of market liquidity is building up a legacy of longer-term problems."
Have your say on this story using the comment section below