Property asking prices fall by 3.2%

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The Independent Online

New sellers knocked nearly £7,500 off their asking prices during the past month as the housing market continued to stagnate, research indicated today.

Asking prices for homes coming on to the market fell by 3.2% during the four weeks to November 6, the biggest drop since December 2007, according to property website Rightmove.

The group said asking prices in England and Wales had now fallen in four of the past five months, leaving the average property valued at £229,379.

It warned that with an unseasonably high number of unsold properties on estate agents' books, sellers faced tough competition to find a buyer.

The average home is now taking 102 days to sell, the longest time recorded by the group since it began its index in 2001, as potential buyers adopt a 'wait and see' approach.

There are signs that sellers are also putting their moving plans on hold until the outlook for the market is clearer, with the number of properties put up for sale falling by 9.1% during the month.

Despite the drop, with an average of just over 24,000 new sellers coming to the market each week, properties for sale still outnumber the level of mortgages being approved for house purchase by two to one.

The group said that while not every property sells and not all buyers need a mortgage, the continuing shortage of mortgages was contributing to the current stagnation in the market.

Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove, said: "Agents report that the Christmas slowdown has come early this year, as both would-be buyers and sellers are adopting a 'wait and see' policy until the direction of next year's housing market becomes apparent.

"The combination of high unsold stocks, the mortgage famine, a shaky economy and the normal winter slowdown gives an ideal scenario for bargain-hunting buyers."

He said the traditional rush to complete transactions before Christmas was more subdued this year, with estate agents having an average of 77 unsold properties on their books, an "unseasonably high" figure, despite the slowdown in the number of sellers coming to the market.

Mr Shipside said: "This month's large price correction shows that new sellers and their estate agents are beginning to show a heightened awareness of the plight of buyers, but a lot of stale stock is still sitting on the market.

"Some sellers have lost their motivation to move, but remain on the market hoping for that special buyer to meet their out-dated and inflated price."

The prices of new properties being put up for sale are now just 1.3% higher than they were a year ago, and the figure is likely to drop into negative territory during the coming months.

Today's figures are the latest in a run of gloomy data on the housing market, which has shown a fall in interest from potential buyers, putting further downward pressure on prices.

Some economists are expecting house prices to fall by 10% during the coming year, but others expect the market to stagnate and trade sideways until mortgage availability improves and the outlook for the economy becomes clearer.

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