House prices fall sharply, survey shows

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The Independent Online
HOUSE prices are still falling sharply, an influential survey is expected to show tomorrow.

The Nationwide Building Society said yesterday that its monthly house price index for June would show a fall of more than 1 per cent in the space of a month.

In May, the Nationwide's seasonally adjusted measure of prices was 0.7 per cent lower than in April.

The new figures suggest that the monthly decline in the housing market may be accelerating.

"Our survey will show a drop of more than 1 per cent in June compared to May. But prices are about the same as a year ago," a Nationwide spokeswoman said yesterday.

"We think prices are being depressed by the coming change in Department of Social Security rules for payment of mortgages [from 1 October], the recent decreases in Miras and uncertainty about job prospects," the spokeswoman added.

The Halifax Building Society's much larger housing market survey for June, due on Tuesday, is also unlikely to cheer the more than 1 million households estimated to be in negative equity.

Gary Marsh, the Halifax's economist, said: "We don't run the computer until Monday but I would expect the result to lie between a fall of half a per cent and a rise of half a per cent for June compared to May."

This would represent a slowing down of the market's decline compared to the 0.9 per cent fall recorded for May by the Halifax.

But, unlike the Nationwide, Mr Marsh said: "We will probably see a fall compared to last year, with prices between 1 per cent and 1.5 per cent lower than a year ago.

"In May they were 1.4 per cent lower than a year ago," he pointed out.

As recently as April, the Halifax was still forecasting a 2-3 per cent rise in house prices during 1995.

The news of a continued decline in the housing market will overshadow the monthly meeting this Wednesday between the Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, and the Governor of the Bank of England, Eddie George.

The pound's value against a basket of other currencies corresponding to trade flows touched its all-time low point last week.

Mr George may hope for sterling to be propped up and inflation trends controlled with an interest rate rise - particularly if the Tory leadership first-round ballot result on Tuesday creates market turbulence.

But the house price gloom will make Mr Clarke yet more reluctant to agree to dearer money.