Half the number of residential properties were sold in May compared with a year ago amid coronavirus lockdown measures.
A total of 46,230 property transactions were completed during the month, down 52% on the same month last year, HM Revenue and Customs data shows.
There was a slight pick-up on the previous month, reflecting the lifting of housing market restrictions in England in mid-May.
Estate agents say demand is now high.
Figures show that buyer interest is bouncing back, as housing markets in the other parts of the UK have begun to open too.
However, commentators say this may be short-lived as the sharp economic downturn puts pressure on household spending.
Spring is usually a busy period for the property market, but the coronavirus lockdown all but halted activity.
The number of property transactions fell to a record low of 37,000 in April, and despite a slight pick-up in May, sales were clearly suppressed during that month.
Since then, there has been interest from potential buyers, many of whom have changed their priorities. Gardens and space to work from home have become more popular owing to people’s experiences during recent months.
Others are likely to be more guarded owing to worries about jobs and incomes in the longer term.
“We have concerns that most of the demand is for smaller family houses rather than smaller flats as aspiring first-time buyers remain concerned over future employment prospects post-furlough,” said north London estate agent Jeremy Leaf.