Research shows spring surge for housing market

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The Independent Online

The housing market benefited from its traditional spring revival during April as activity levels continued to increase, research showed today.

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) reported the biggest jump in sellers since August last year, while there was also an increase in the number of potential buyers.

Property sales also held steady at an average of eight per estate agent, although this was slightly down on the level seen in April last year.

The figures are in line with ones reported by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for the same month.

The group said its members had seen a rise in both house prices and sales levels during April, with activity expected to continue increasing during the coming months.

The NAEA said estate agents had an average of 62 properties on its books during April, up from 60 in March and the third consecutive month during which the number of homes on the market has increased.

There was also a slight increase in buyer numbers, with this rising to 278 per branch, up from 274.

The group said the rise in demand from potential buyers challenged the "received wisdom" that a General Election followed by a World Cup would lead to people putting off plans to buy a new home until later in the summer.

It added that the figures suggested the housing market had bottomed out and was now beginning the "slow and fragile journey towards recovery".

But other commentators have warned that the rising level of homes coming on to the market could lead to house price falls, as the mismatch between supply and demand has been one of the key factors supporting house prices since the recovery began.

Gary Smith, president of the NAEA, said: "A major housing trend over the past six months has continued to be the relatively low numbers of sellers coming to market.

"For three months, however, the number of sellers has increased steadily. At the same time demand has stayed strong, as have the number of sales agreed.

"All of the trends reported by our members point to reasonably sunny prospects for the summer housing market."

But the proportion of properties that were bought by first-time buyers continued to fall, dropping from 23% to 21%.

The group said the number of first-time buyers was now getting towards the lower end of what was needed for a healthy housing market, and added that it would push for more measures to help this group from whoever forms the new government.

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