October house sales down 10,000 on last year

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Further evidence of the slowdown in the property market has emerged with HM Revenue & Customs reporting that just 79,000 residential properties changed hands in the UK in October.

While the figure is up 1,000 on the previous month it is down 10,000 compared to October last year. The seasonally adjusted figure of 72,000 is 9,000 down on the previous year.

Prior to the credit crunch and resultant financial crisis, sales typically ran well in excess of 100,000 a month, although they hit a nadir of 41,000 during January 2009.

The figures, however, add to the mounting weight of data showing a slowdown in the housing market, with most of the major pricing surveys showing falls. They are also set to heap further pressure on the Financial Services Authority, whose Mortgage Market Review would have banned half of the mortgages issued over the last five years despite the fact that the vast majority of the loans are being repaid.

Lord Turner, the FSA's chairman, sought to defend the policy again on Tuesday before the Treasury Select Committee in the teeth of furious criticism from lenders and house builders who have argued that the net effect of the watchdog's plans will be to take a generation of first-time-buyers out of home ownership.

On Tuesday, the Nationwide building society also warned that house prices, having started to drop in recent months, were likely to continue falling in the coming year. The lender blamed continuing economic uncertainty and a lack of consumer confidence for its conclusions.