A COMBINATION of factors causing the property market to stagnate could lead to some estate agents’ offices closing over the next 12 months.

The stark warning came from Mark Charter, a partner at Oxford-based Carter Jonas estate agents.

He said:“Over the next 12 months you could see a shake-out with some estate agents facing branch closures."

Mr Charter warned estate agents across the county faced a turbulent 2018 after a stalled market led to the UK’s largest estate agents issuing its second profit warning in three months.

Mr Charter's concerns were prompted by a profit warning from Countrywide, which owns high street brands including John D Wood in Oxford and London.

The Countrywide chain said last year that the Brexit vote had had a ‘sustained impact’ on the property market with fewer people looking to buy or sell.

The latest profit warning came as a survey of surveyors said activity in the housing market continued to fall last month, despite the Chancellor scrapping stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes costing up to £300,000.

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, 86 per cent of its members did not see any increase in enquiries from first-time buyers in December, a month on from the stamp duty change.

Mr Charter said transaction levels in terms of Land Registry completions were 30 per cent down year on year.

He added: “The total number of homes sold is down everywhere but not everywhere is suffering as badly as Oxford, London and Cambridge.

“First-time buyers have the help to buy stimulus and stamp duty changes can also lead to them getting on the property ladder but there is an affordability issue further up the chain.

“People can not afford to trade up and that is contributing to the stagnating market.”

Mr Charter estimated that it could cost some families as much as £250,000 to ‘trade up’ and buy a new home with an extra bedroom and a bigger garden.

He said:“Once they have factored in all the costs of moving they are decided to stay where they are for the time being.”

Mr Charter agreed that uncertainty over Brexit was contributing to a stagnating property market in the county.

He added: “Brexit is not the only factor for potential buyers sitting on their hands but it has to be a factor.

“However, the market is cyclical and once there is more certainty over Brexit in 2019 the market should start to pick up.

“But over the next 12 months there could be cutbacks at estate agents with some branch offices closing.”

Mr Charter said an analysis of the latest figures showed Oxford homeowners were only moving every 18 years.

The average time between house moves has slumped to once every 17.8 years – the highest since records began.

He added: “The frequency of people moving house – once every 18 years – has to be a contributing factor.

“Once the Brexit issue unlocks in 2019 the market will improve.

“Until then estate agents will have to react to market conditions and set their businesses accordingly.”

In November the Chancellor’s Budget revealed a £215m housing deal for Oxfordshire to build 100,000 homes in the county by 2031.

Data taken from the Land Registry and the 2011 census revealed there were more than 12,000 homes with two or more spare bedrooms in the city.

An initiative called Homeshare Oxford has been matching older people with spare rooms with younger people looking for somewhere to live.

It has been running in the city for the past two and a half years.

Countrywide warned in November that the sales market was ‘challenging’ and would be down compared to 2016.

At the weekend it warned 2017 profits would fall to an estimated £65m, from £83.5m.

The latest estimate is about 10 per cent below some analysts’ forecasts.

The chain issued the latest warning after a particularly disappointing performance in London and the South East.

John D Wood, which has an office in Summertown and 20 offices across the capital, has been selling houses and flats in Oxford since 1989.

Staff at John D Wood declined to comment and referred inquiries to Countrywide, which has not commented.

Simon Rubinshohn, chief economist for RICS, said initial feedback suggested the stamp duty change announced in the budget was not going to have a material impact on market activity.