The housing market: Surveyors add to the bricks-and-mortar blues

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The Independent Online

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) has added its voice to the chorus calling a turn in the property market. In September, it said, 14.6 per cent more surveyors reported price falls in their area than those pointing to increases.

This indicates a deterioration on the previous month, when the gap stood at just 3.3 per cent.

The Rics survey is significant because it is the first major housing market study to include the period of the Northern Rock crisis.

Adding to the gloom, Rics said surveyors had experienced a sharp dip in the number of buyer enquiries during September. In fact, new enquiries are now at their lowest level since March 2003.

Rics said a mix of factors – such as higher interest rates and lenders taking a stricter line on how much cash they will advance to some customers – was hitting consumer confidence and sending house prices lower.

"Rising rates, the introduction of home information packs [HIPs] and volatility in the financial markets, resulting in a tightening of lending criteria, has certainly affected the confidence of buyers and sellers," said Rics spokesman Jeremy Leaf.

He added that the downturn seems to be severest in East Anglia, and the West and East Midlands, though prices are still going up in Scotland and London.