Property: What goes down in 1993 must come up in 1994

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HOW much will your home be worth this time next year? Well, it depends whom you ask. It seems analysts are still willing to be hoist by their own predictions, despite the dangers of getting it wrong. The most consistent view is that prices will continue to fall across the country in the next 12 months, but most analysts agree they will rise steadily from 1994 onwards.

John Wriglesworth of UBS Phillips & Drew, whose housing predictions are more reliable than most, expects prices to fall by 5 per cent across the country as a whole next year, but by 6 per cent in the South-east. This pessimism reflects his view that the market will be depressed by the 200,000 homes now up for sale. Some will be mopped up next year; others are not the kind of homes that new buyers will want.

By the end of next year he estimates that about two million people will be living in homes worth less than their mortgage. A quarter of all owners with mortgages in the South-east will have this 'negative equity'. With these people unable to sell, homes for first-time buyers will be in short supply, which Mr Wriglesworth believes will push prices up by 7 per cent in 1994. Like most forecasters, he expects values to revive and overtake general inflation through the mid-Nineties.

Others are not so pessimistic. James Morrell, of Charterhouse Bank, plumps for a 1 per cent drop across the UK in 1993, but a 2 per cent drop in the South-east and Scotland. However, both men see a surge in sales ahead. The last of the Sixties 'baby boomers' who have put off buying for the past couple of years will be back, boosting the number of deals by between 13 and 15 per cent in 1993.

Mr Wriglesworth has found that couples have been postponing homebuying until they start a family. Yet research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has revealed that people in south-east England were putting off starting a family because houses were too expensive.

IT SEEMED like a good idea. Celebrate the opening of the single European market during John Major's presidency by building a house in Brussels; furnish it with UK goods than invite Johnny Foreigner to see why an Englishman's home is his castle. Custom Homes has produced an attractive neo-Georgian manor, but will it be so enticing to continental visitors when they notice the address? Perhaps it was no coincidence that the Whitehall organisers chose a suburb which retains the name of its historic site - Waterloo.

THINGS are looking brighter for thousands of flat-owners hoping for the right to buy out landlords if MPs reform leasehold law. The Government has offered to help fund an advisory service for leaseholders wary of employing expensive lawyers. And people living over shops could also benefit from the reforms, as ministers are considering extending rights to those whose property includes up to 20 per cent commercial space. Homes on high ground rents may also be brought into the net.

IT'S SO hard to find the right sort of house nowadays. You only have to mention 'about 80 rooms, a squash court and a garage for six cars' and agents, particularly in central London, break into a sweat. Thank goodness then that the Government has decided to sell Lady Nancy Astor's former home in St James's Square, which boasts all these essentials.

Agent Peter Wetherell explains that with so many office blocks lying empty, it seemed a good idea to switch the 18th-century block back to its original use as a home, after many years as the Arts Council headquarters. Several potential buyers who can scrape together the pounds 6.5m asking price have already shown interest, he says.