Hint of housing recovery

NIC CICUTTI

Tentative signs of a housing market recovery emerged yesterday after a survey showed more people went house-hunting last month.

Cuts in mortgage interest rates helped boost business for estate agents in Yorkshire, Humberside, East Anglia, the South-east, Wales and London, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

Some of the larger estate agency chains claimed the increase in sales was partly due to a more realistic approach by sellers when setting prices.

Royal Insurance Property Services, which launched a "sale" of properties on its books last month, said it had already sold about 900 of the 11,000 homes whose owners were prepared to drop their prices.

Overall, 10 per cent of RICS estate agents said business was better last month than in August. The survey follows Bank of England figures showing a rise in new mortgage offers by lenders in August. Halifax and Nationwide building societies recorded a slight rise in average house prices last month.

But banks said their own increased lending may have been caused by buyers trying to beat the October deadline for the introduction of government cuts in benefit for mortgage-payers who lose their jobs.

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