One upbeat housing survey is not a recovery

Nationwide's report is just one of many indicators

Our troubles are over – a house price survey from Nationwide has found that property prices have gone up by 1.2 per cent in a month, a rise in two of the last three months. Suddenly, the lender says, the annual rate of decline as improved dramatically from -15 per cent to -11.3 per cent, so that the average home is worth over £2,000 more than it was four weeks ago. The talk is now of having found the bottom of the housing slump.

Well, that wasn't too bad after all. Roll on a soaring market and economic prosperity. Where's that credit card application gone?

But hang on, one stat does not a recovery make, especially in this industry, and a totally different report created from totally different numbers due out tomorrow is expected to show no change at all. So why the wildly varying results?

This year's property sales volumes are half what they are in a normal year and the market is so small that any change is going to show up as a huge fluctuation. Even Nationwide's own boffin said: "It is still too early to say that the market is turning definitively. During the downturn of the early 1990s, there were many months during which prices rose, only to fall back down again in subsequent periods."

It's important to note that each of these surveys is based on that single lender's numbers – just the properties on their own books – not the entire country. If we're not careful, we may be pinning our hopes of a recovery on the fact that someone has managed to shift their three-bed semi in Huddersfield.

Then there's the small problem that each survey measures different things, and woe betide you if you assumed that they were about the prices UK houses sell for. The Nationwide's monthly figures are based on their "lending data for properties at the post-survey approval stage" in the UK. Halifax gets its numbers in the same way, so comparing these two reports may be a good start as together they cover a sizeable chunk of the UK's mortgage market. That's approvals, mind. But the stats released by the Department for Communities and Local Government looks at mortgage completions, not all the mortgages approved.

At this stage, it all gets really sketchy. RICS – the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – is quite a heavyweight, and its survey is the one the Bank of England considers when it decides interest rates. But its method is an odd one, drawing its conclusions by comparing the number of chartered surveyors who reported a rise in new buyer inquiries in any given month to the number who reported a fall. And Rightmove's numbers are even more fluffy, based on a monthly sample of the asking prices of the properties on its website, but only those in England and Wales.

Oh, and when any of them talk about "the greatest increase – or decrease – on record" bear in mind those records all started in different, and surprisingly recent, years. RICS has the longest running statistics, and they only go back to 1978.

Clearly trying to glean real meaning from a single lender's figures is like panning for gold in custard. It may all look promising but there's little of intrinsic value to get a grip on.

And if you are trying to pin down the price that your home will settle at, let's not forget that repossessions are on the up and unemployment will continue to rise, with a negative knock on effect that is yet to be felt in our bricks and mortar.

That said, if you really must have a positive spin, another chief economist – Simon Ward at Henderson Global Investors – is talking of the bottom of the trough, arguing that forced sales may not be as widespread as we once feared because of the historically low cost of borrowing.

"A key difference from prior busts is the low level of mortgage interest rates, which is allowing many struggling borrowers to continue to service their loans," he says. "The Council of Mortgage Lenders reported last week that repossessions and arrears cases rose by less than feared in the first quarter. The CML intends to revise down its earlier forecast of 75,000 repossessions in 2009. With less distressed selling, downward pressure on prices from rising supply is much less than in prior downturns. According to RICS, the number of unsold homes on the books of the average estate agent stood at 69 in April – far below peaks of 166 and 196 in the last two major housing downturns. Meanwhile, buyer inquiries have picked up recently."

Hold your nerve, ladies and gents, hold your nerve.

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    PMO Analyst - London - Banking - £350 - £400

    £350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...

    Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

    Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

    Test Lead - London - Investment Banking

    £475 - £525 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Investment Banking, Technical ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game