For what it's worth

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The Independent Online
Things are looking up, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, who report sustained improvement in the housing market in the first three months of the year. This contrasts favourably with the depressing autumn report last year which said there was little sign of an upturn in the housing market. Falling interest rates and competitive mortgages are two of the reasons for the improved activity.

Yet better sales do not mean better prices. Quality period properties are showing the best increases but agents warn against unrealistic pricing. Mark Everett of Michael Everett & Co in Surrey voices the general opinion: "Overpriced property is sticking badly. Accurate pricing is vital."

A widespread shortage of good houses on the market, particularly in the South East and South West, is also affecting prices. Devon and Dorset have enjoyed a record first quarter.

Agents remain cautious about another false dawn and will be watching the Budget for anything that might damage the fragile market. "Don't get too excited," warns Tony Gray of Fraser Wood in the West Midlands. "It's not so much a `feel good' factor but rather an `I don't feel too bad' factor".

Who's moving

Dummer has become synonymous with Sarah Ferguson, who was brought up in the Hampshire village. The Cottage which belonged to the Duchess' grandmother is up for sale. A pretty thatched, four-bedroom, three-reception room house, it has recently been rewired, rethatched and redecorated and sold through John D Wood (01962 86131) for pounds 310,000.