`Buyers back' in housing market

The new year recovery in the housing market continued last month, with nearly three quarters of estate agents reporting higher activity, writes Diane Coyle. Buyers have been encouraged by interest rate cuts and excellent mortgage deals, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Its regular survey of members for the three months to February found 62.6 per cent reporting an increase in business of up to 10 per cent, while nearly one in eight said activity had grown by 25-50 per cent. Only 5 per cent reported a decrease compared with three months earlier.

Prices were flat, however. More than four fifths of the estate agents said selling prices were the same as three months ago. The survey commented that recovery was in danger of being held back by sellers who had been encouraged by positive reports and decided to hold out for a better price.

David Baker, an estate agent in Penarth, near Cardiff, said: ``There is definitely more activity but let us not get carried away with the thought that prices will rise. There is a lot of slack to be taken up first.''

Denis Chapman in Scarborough, described the market as "still very patchy with only the realistically-priced properties finding purchasers.''

John Pocock of Pocock and Shaw in Cambridge was more optimistic: ``Houses generally are proving to be much more readily saleable and the situation appears to be better than any time in the past 12 months.''

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