Is the housing market heading up or down?

Are you confused about the prospects for buying and selling? Well, you're not alone. Almost every day, there's a new index suggesting house prices are rising, or falling, or static. Graham Norwood asked six experts for their assessment, as well as their hot tips on where to buy
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The Independent Online

Ed Mead was the motor-biking estate agent on BBC2's reality show Chelsea Lives, and works at the Douglas & Gordon agency in Chelsea.

How is the market performing now? Give it points out of 10:

5/10. A month ago, however, I would have said 6/10.

Are prices up, down or flat?

Deadly flat. I think that there's a definite lack of commitment from buyers. There may be more sales in the next few months but there will be no rise in value. Next year, I think there will be more of the same.

With a deposit of £50,000, what would you choose as a UK investment?

This is a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. I'd put a deposit on a small flat in central London. Don't worry about size, the important bit is the location - and the more central the better. At the moment, rentals are really improving, too.

What's your tip for a best buy overseas?

I would have a look at the Adriatic [Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro]. Some of it's a bit primitive and title deeds proving ownership can be a difficult area, so buyers do have to beware. But I think it seems like a good punt.

Fionnuala Earley compiles Nationwide building society's house price index - the one that the government and homeowners take most seriously.

How is the market performing now? Give it points out of 10:

5/10. The market's weaker than it has been over the past two years, but it has been remarkably resilient in the face of gloomy predictions. There have been no persistent falls anywhere.

Are prices up, down or flat?

They're pretty flat. Confidence, which is key for the housing market, hasn't evaporated, and estate agents' data suggests we may even see some boost to activity as prices soften and liquidity in the market improves. We don't expect any exciting movement in prices, up or down, over the next year.

With a deposit of £50,000, what would you choose as a UK investment?

I'd personally choose somewhere with a garden, enough room to entertain friends and family, and around Didcot or south Oxfordshire, where there are strong road and rail links.

What's your tip for a best buy overseas?

Abruzzo, in Italy. It's beautiful, relatively untouched by tourists, has great food, is close to the sea and ski slopes, and it's cheaper than Tuscany.

Miles Shipside, director of www.rightmove. co.uk, is a no-nonsense economist who says some estate agents and sellers have been asking too much for homes on sale.

How is the market performing now? Give it points out of 10:

6/10.

Are prices up, down or flat?

It's flat. This year's dip in sales was the worst for a decade, but there is evidence of recovery. Expect increasing sales to first-time buyers before buy-to-let investors pile in next year. I think that 2006 will be flat, but affordability is improving, and it's helped by more realistic asking prices, falling interest rates and wage increases which are running ahead of annual house-price inflation.

With a deposit of £50,000, what would you choose as a UK investment?

The Olympic zones in north and east London have already shown price jumps since the announcement - that's the place to go.

What's your tip for a best buy overseas?

Northern Cyprus looks good to me. There are rumours of a deal between Turkish and Greek Cypriots which will mean, I think, that you can buy with confidence in the currently cheaper north of the island.

Fiona Sadek has written housing reports for the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, and works at property consultancy Colliers CRE.

How is the market performing now? Give it points out of 10:

5/10, could do better.

Are prices up, down or flat?

Prices have plateaued after a year of heavy decline. The buyers' market is going to continue.

With a deposit of £50,000, what would you choose as a UK investment?

I'd buy in the East Midlands. It has an extensive motorway network, is close to the Humber ports and has East Midlands airport. The excellent transport links mean workers have one of the lowest average travel-to-work times in the UK. Housing is affordable, with Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire seeing the largest house-price growth over the past year, at 8 per cent.

What's your tip for a best buy overseas?

Malaysia has reliable financing for foreign investors, up to 90 per cent on a range of properties from sophisticated city-centre dwellings to high-end resorts. Avoid the Spanish Costas - there's a slowing market with an over-supply of stock. I also think that Turkey is a good place to buy in terms of rental yields.

Liam Bailey runs residential research at estate agency Knight Frank, specialising in country houses and top-of-the-range new developments.

How is the market performing now? Give it points out of 10:

6/10. Affordability is still a big issue for first-time buyers.

Are prices up, down or flat?

The market's flat now and I think that in 12 months time it will be 2 per cent higher.

With a deposit of £50,000, what would you choose as a UK investment?

I would buy an investment property in somewhere like Chatham, in Kent. The whole South-east has underperformed in price terms for three years, but there's beginning to be an upturn. To me, there is more potential here than elsewhere.

What's your tip for a best buy overseas?

Don't ignore the traditional locations - Murcia, in Spain, is good, not too congested and becoming increasingly popular with Brits. Or you could buy in Turkey, which is accessible and still cheap, and has an economy with big potential. However, I wouldn't recommend buying in central Europe, because of its difficult legal system and lack of transparency.

Lisa Isaacs edits What House? magazine, offering advice to inexperienced and first-time buyers, and road-testing new homes.

How is the market performing now? Give it points out of 10:

6/10.

Are prices up, down or flat?

Prices are still inflated. At the moment, first-time buyers are struggling to accumulate the money for a deposit and vendors feel that it's their God-given right to sell for an unrealistic value - but the longer they hold out for a top price, the staler the market becomes. In 2006, I can see house-price inflation staying the same.

With a deposit of £50,000, what would you choose as a UK investment?

I'd buy a holiday home to rent out. The South-west has peaked, so I'd look around the New Forest, in East Anglia and in Scotland.

What's your tip for a best buy overseas?

I think I would take a gamble and head for Hong Kong - where the newly opened Disneyland is going to pull in the punters. If it were to enjoy the same success as its Floridian counterpart and the short-term lets rolled in, I'd be very happy.

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