Society: Housing boom patchy say agents

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House prices may be rising, but sellers are still fighting shy of the market, according to a survey by the National Association of Estate Agents published today. The association attempts to put an optimistic gloss on its findings, highlighting the fact that increasing numbers of properties are coming on the market. "The present imbalance of demand and supply is beginning to level," it says.

But the figures, based on the month of August, tell a more sobering story: too many buyers are chasing too few properties, and the boom is largely confined to London. Seventy-two per cent of estate agents reported that demand was outstripping supply in their areas, and 44 per cent said the level of new instructions by vendors was poor.

The survey confirms that house prices are on the up. Eighty per cent of agents said prices had increased locally compared to August last year, by an average of 9.8 per cent. Fifty-eight per cent said business was better than 12 months ago. But Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy, president of the association, says that the market is displaying "a Jekyll and Hyde character".

"Some areas of the country are performing much better than others, and for some, the feel-good factor is merely `feeling-better'," he says.