House sales 'at two-year low'

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Britain's housing market stuttered further during July as estate agents today reported sales at a two-year low.

RICS, the surveyors' trade body, said its estate agent members managed to sell only 14.2 properties on average over the past three months, making it the quietest period for sales since June 2009.

The majority of surveyors also reported prices fell rather than rose over July and though the proportion fell slightly, this figure has been in the red for over a year.

RICS spokesman Ian Perry said: "The UK housing market continued to stall during July; prices edged lower and sales levels remained subdued.

"While the holiday season appears to have had some impact on the market, the continual problem of inaccessible mortgage finance is still preventing first-time buyers from accessing the market."

The number of properties on the books of estate agent members rose from 69.7 in June to 70.2, with 13% more surveyors expecting prices to dip over the next three months than rise.

London is the only place bucking the weak trend, with 30% more surveyors reporting prices on the rise than falling, with the capital also seeing the strongest level of new buyer enquiries. The West Midlands and East of England saw the worst of the price falls.

Even in London, mortgage constraints are causing problems. According to one RICS member, it is the biggest brake on the market and especially on sales of studios and one and two-bedroom flats.

Elsewhere, the market in Scotland is described as slow and patchy with houses selling but no increase in sale prices. Wales is very quiet for this time of year, with similar comments from surveyors in the Midlands and North.

Sellers also need to be more realistic in their valuations, the surveyors said.

"Unsurprisingly, with prices continuing to fall, many would-be sellers seem unwilling to lower their expectations and are reluctant to place their property on the market," Mr Perry added.