Homes market signals revival

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The Independent Online
The National Association of Estate Agents has detected a revival in the housing market, and reports that December has been the busiest month for three years for some. Potential buyers were even out house hunting in the days after Christmas.

Michael Jones, association president, said December normally goes quiet after the first week. 'But this year property was selling right up to Christmas Eve.'

He believes lower interest rates are beginning to affect buyers. 'Those who already have mortgages are seeing the reductions coming through. They now feel that they can afford to move to something bigger as long as they have job security.'

Cornerstone agencies, owned by Abbey National, said there were twice as many transactions this month as in August, when a surge of activity marked the last weeks of the stamp duty holiday. Two offices - in Birmingham and Staines - completed two sales each on Christmas Eve. 'It was as if someone had forgotten to tell people it was Christmas,' said one manager.

The Abbey National said most of the buyers are new home-owners encouraged by special offers. It added: 'People are now price sensitive. They are buying because they feel that prices are not going to go down much further.'

Strutt & Parker, which has 17 offices across Britain dealing in higher-priced properties, also reports a bumper month. In the four days before Christmas contracts were exchanged on 16 properties worth more than pounds 4m.

'I came into the London office on Christmas Eve to wrap up my presents and ended up answering the telephone,' said Michael Cane, a senior partner.

David Woodcock, operations director of Black Horse Agencies, which has nearly 400 offices, said December was 'encouraging', adding: 'But we still have a long way to go. It could be we are seeing delayed purchases that people put off after the reimposition of stamp duty, or it could be a genuine

improvement.'

The Halifax Building Society, in its annual market review, said house moves were at about half the 1988 level of 2.1 million.

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