BRITAIN’S impending departure from the EU is already causing caution.

While we can only speculate what this highly publicised and so-called divorce on March 29 will mean for the country, there is no doubt there will be some impact from the outcome.

People will be keeping a closer eye on their finances and how Brexit could affect the cost of living, and it’s also prompting some caution in the property market too.

According to The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) an overall net balance of 28 per cent of surveyors expect sales numbers to fall in the next three months rather than increase - the most downbeat reading since records started in October 1998.

Its December survey found key indicators of housing market activity are continuing to slip. Sales expectations for the next three months are now either flat, with no change predicted, or negative, indicating falling sales across all parts of the UK it said.

However, looking further ahead, surveyors are a little more upbeat in their sales expectations for 12 months’ time suggesting that some of the near-term pessimism is linked to the lack of clarity around what form of Brexit the UK will end up with - it said.

As well as Brexit uncertainty, domestic issues related to a lack of supply and affordability continue to affect the market. New buyer inquiries fell for the fifth month in a row in December.

The drop-off in interest from buyers was matched by a decline in fresh properties coming onto the market and the supply of properties coming onto the market has been dwindling for six months.

Simon Rubinsohn, Rics chief economist, said: “It is hardly a surprise with ongoing uncertainty about the path to Brexit dominating the news agenda, that even allowing for the normal patterns around the Christmas holidays, buyer interest in purchasing property in December was subdued.

“This is also very clearly reflected in a worsening trend in near-term sales expectations.

“Looking a little further out, there is some comfort provided by the suggestion that transactions nationally should stabilise as some of the fog lifts, but that moment feels a way off for many respondents to the survey.”

However, locally, estate agents are painting a more positive picture of the property market.

William Eddison, director of Dale Eddison estate agents which has offices in Ilkley, Otley, Guiseley, Silsden and Skipton, says: “It’s always difficult to accurately read the market so early in the year, however despite the chaos in Westminster we’ve seen a surprisingly buoyant start to 2019.

“The level of sales in the first two weeks of the year has exceeded our expectations and we are doing a phenomenal level of market appraisals, indicating many potential clients are considering moving house in 2019 regardless of the political turmoil.

“As I say it’s very early in the year to appreciate market trends, but so far we are tremendously encouraged by the level of activity we’re experiencing. I can see a scenario where prices don’t increase further during the year, but equally in an area as popular as Ilkley, I am not expecting them to fall.

“We’ve always found that when the market does get tough, the experienced agents that offer a quality service continue to thrive and as such I’m looking forward to the year and the challenges it may bring.”

Patrick McCutcheon, head of residential at Dacre, Son & Hartley which has offices throughout Yorkshire, including Ilkley, acknowledges pre-Brexit negotiations continue to impact on consumer confidence, and while pre-Christmas trading months were softer than expected, the start of the New Year has seen instructions and viewing levels accelerate.

“It is beginning to move into a more positive frame of mind,” he says.

Patrick explains while people may have been cautious ahead of Brexit, those whose property is too small or too large can only defer moving for so long. “If there are properties that are a little bit different that come to the market people will still react,” he says.

Among the most buoyant areas are Skipton, Settle and the Dales - picture postcard areas which are also popular with tourists. Bingley is also currently busy according to Patrick.

“Bizarrely it tends to be the most affluent areas showing the most caution, but I think there will be a good strong marketplace,” he says.

“We will find the market will accelerate reasonably quickly in terms of supply and sales.”