Halifax raises hopes of a healthier housing market

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The Independent Online

Some optimism is returning to the UK's housing market according to a new survey showing that a rising number of Britons expect house prices to climb rather than fall over 2013.

The Halifax Housing Market Confidence Tracker for December records 38 per cent of respondents anticipate an increase over the next 12 months and 18 per cent forecast a decline. The positive balance of +20 was the highest reading in the survey since it was established in April 2011.

The Halifax's latest House Price Index showed that in the three months to November, home values fell by 0.7 per cent, and they were down 1.3 per cent on the same period of 2011.

Figures from the Bank of England yesterday showed the British public's mortgage repayments exceeded new borrowing in the third quarter of 2012 by £8bn, as homeowners sought to improve their balance sheets and new transactions remained muted. And according to numbers last week from the British Bankers' Association, mortgage approvals in Britain were 1.5 per cent down on the year in November. However, the net injection of housing equity by the British public in the third quarter, on the Bank's figures, was the smallest level since early 2010.

Last summer the Government and the Bank established a Funding for Lending Scheme to encourage banks to offer cheaper mortgages. Over the first two months of the scheme's operation, net lending by British banks rose by just £500m but officials hope that the scheme will increase the flow of mortgage lending and boost the housing market this year.

The Halifax survey pointed to a small decline in the proportion of people who say that the availability of mortgage lending from banks is a hurdle to buying, falling from 31 per cent in October to 29 per cent. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents cited job security as a hurdle and 55 per cent pointed to the difficulty of raising a deposit.