Around a third (34%) of new homes across England and Wales are estimated to have been sold in advance of being built last year, according to an estate agent.
This proportion was down from a peak of nearly half (46%) in 2016, the figures from Hamptons indicate.
Last year’s proportion of homes being sold off-plan across England and Wales was the lowest level recorded by Hamptons since 2013.
A rising share of off-plan buyers are owner-occupiers, Hamptons said.
It calculated that around a fifth (21%) of off-plan purchases were made by investors in 2022, down from 70% in 2015.
Meanwhile first-time buyers are estimated to have made up around two-thirds (67%) of off-plan purchases last year.
David Fell, lead analyst at Hamptons, said: “Off-plan demand has steadily moved away from investors buying two or three years in advance towards first-time buyers who are typically looking to move home within six to 12 months. The majority, however, still want to wait to see a finished product.
“Slowing rates of price growth have also reduced the incentive for some buyers to get in early.
“A decade ago, investors buying well in advance of completion often saw the value of their new home rise 20% to 40% between exchange and completion.
“But as price growth has slowed, buyers have in general become less willing to commit to purchases years in advance of completion.”
Hamptons’ off-plan index used new home sales data from some 550 estate agency branches which form part of its parent company, the Connells Group.
It also used Land Registry figures to help it model the data.