No respite for the housing market as it slumps by 10%

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The Independent Online

There is no respite for the depressed property market as the number of new buyers has slumped by a tenth in January from the previous month.

The latest monthly survey from the property analytics firm Hometrack, published today, reveals that the number of new buyers registering with estate agents fell 10.5 per cent in January, much higher than falls of 2.2 per cent recorded in November and 6.3 per cent in December.

The length of time it takes for a property to sell is also increasing, from 9.9 weeks in November to 10.2 weeks in January. Meanwhile the number of sales agreed, which climbed 4.6 per cent in November, has fallen 14.3 per cent in the past month.

Hometrack reports that prices remained static. The survey indicates that there has now been no increase in house prices for 18 months.

Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said: "The survey reveals a market dogged by uncertainty. On a national basis house prices have not increased over the last 18 months, since June 2010."

However there was a small rise in London prices, which offset falls in other regions. The relatively positive housing market in the capital is set to continue through 2012 as the Olympics effect continues to boost interest in the City's property, said Mr Donnell.

"Overseas buyers looking for a safe haven in the midst of global uncertainty will continue to invest in the capital and the super prime postcodes of central London," he added.

The average time a property remains on the market provides the clearest guide to the relative health of the housing market, said Mr Donnell. But while nationally the average time has fallen to 10.5 weeks, the regional figures reveal a widening north-south divide.

In the northern regions and Midlands, the average time stands at 11.9 weeks, just under three months. In the relatively buoyant by comparison London market, the time spent on the market has fallen to 6.5 weeks, lower than the 6.9-week wait recorded at the beginning of 2011.