NAEA Propertymark has revealed that the number of house hunters registered per estate agent branch in fell by 15% in February, from 297 in January, to 252.
This is the lowest figure since July 2013, when agents recorded 250 prospective buyers on average per branch.
Year-on-year, demand for housing has fallen by 18% from 309 in February 2018, 41% from 2017 and 46% from 2016 when there were 463 house hunters per branch.
First-time buyers took advantage of reduced competition in the market last month; as demand fell, sales to the group increased, hitting a seven-month high of 30%.
The last time first-time buyers experienced this rate of sales was July 2018 when they benefited from the annual summer lull. Month-on-month, this figure has increased by four percentage points from 26% in January.
The supply of available housing fell from an average of 36 properties per member branch in January to 34 in February.
This figure has not moved significantly from February 2018 when there were 35 properties available to buy per branch.
The number of sales agreed rose in January, and remained high in February, with seven recorded per branch
Year-on-year, this fell slightly from eight in February 2018.
Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “With demand at a seven-year low, buyers are approaching the market with caution. As we move into spring, we would usually expect to see an increase in activity, but house hunters are evidently delaying their plans until the impact of Brexit is clearer.
“Over the last seven months however, we’ve seen periods where first-time buyers have taken advantage of reduced competition and driven their transactions forward, and this really picked up in February.
“The next few months will be very telling – will activity pick up once there’s further clarity on what Brexit means, or will it push the housing market into a deeper pool of uncertainty? Time will tell, but in the meantime both buyers and sellers should feel positive. There are still house hunters searching for properties and there are still new homes coming onto the market.”