Residential property sales in the UK in April hit their lowest monthly level since comparable records began in 2005, new figures show.
There were 38,060 transactions in April, according to provisional numbers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
This was less than half the level seen in the same month last year.
Spring is usually a busy period for the property market, but the coronavirus lockdown halted activity.
The government lifted many of these restrictions on the sector in England in mid-May.
The total number of UK property sales is slightly less than the previous low when the taps were turned off in the property market at the height of the financial crisis in January 2009.
Andrew Southern, chairman of property developer Southern Grove, said: “The sheer scale of the collapse is staggering but what has to be remembered is that demand for residential property sales cannot be compared with demand for other items in consumers’ regular basket of goods.
“Residential transactions are usually motivated by necessity so, subject to the economic realities that prevail as the country starts to emerge from this crisis, many of these missing sales should rise from the deep.”
Buyers deserted the housing market for obvious reasons just before and after the introduction of virus restrictions, which began on 23 March.
More immediately, the government urged buyers and sellers in the process of completing a deal to come to an amicable arrangement, to avoid people moving during lockdown.
In England, moves are now back on. Estate agents can now open, viewings can be carried out and removal firms and conveyancers can restart operations.
However, restrictions remain in other parts of the UK.
Estate agents, surveyors and others are desperate for any lifting of restrictions, and the sector is seen as key to the UK economy as a whole.
“At a time when the government is spending at an unprecedented rate, the corresponding drop in revenues is going to add further to the economic fall-out from our response to Covid-19,” said Joshua Elash, director of property lender MT Finance.
“We expect May’s data to be similar to this, if not worse. We need to get the market fully open and working again as quickly as possible if we are to limit the damage to the economy as a whole and the property sector specifically.”
Marc von Grundherr, director of lettings and estate agent Benham and Reeves, said: “The good news is that buyers are back in force and market activity will recover as a result, albeit at a pace that current procedures allow.”