Monthly transactions peaked at 151,000 in January 2007 and fell as low as 53,000 in November 2008 when the credit crisis brought bank lending to a virtual standstill. During 2006 and 2007 transactions averaged more than 130,000 a month.
The continued low level of transactions suggests confidence in the market remains fragile.
Surveys show house prices — which recovered strongly at the end of last year — have cooled in recent months, with potential buyers put off by a lack of finance and impending government spending cuts.
"The data continues to demonstrate the subdued level of activity in the residential property sector," said Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
"The latest RICS survey shows sales expectations are improving. However, with mortgage finance still in short supply and little evidence of a meaningful shift in behaviour from lenders, it is hard to see this slightly more optimistic mood being translated into significant higher sales volumes." — Reuters