House sales at 'three-year high'

Chartered surveyors sold around 17 homes on average over the three months to March, marking the highest number recorded since March 2010, in further signs that the market is improving

House sales lifted to a three-year high in March, while prices also saw a "marked" turnaround, surveyors reported today.

Chartered surveyors sold around 17 homes on average over the three months to March, marking the highest number recorded since March 2010, in further signs that the market is improving.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which published the findings, said that 21 per cent of surveyors reported an increase in house prices, which is the highest proportion recorded since June 2010.

Overall, a balance of 1 per cent more surveyors still reported house prices falling rather than rising, although this was significantly down on the 7 per cent net balance reporting falls the previous month.

Demand from would-be buyers has intensified, with a balance of 11 per cent more surveyors reporting increases in new buyer enquiries rather than falls, marking the highest share in five months.

RICS said that transactions have been on the increase for the last three months as confidence slowly returns to the market, helping to free up "stagnant" housing chains.

Surveyors are optimistic that the sales rebound is set to continue, with a balance of 19 per cent more expecting transactions to increase over the next three months rather than fall.

They are also upbeat about prices increasing, although surveyors tended to believe that prices are more likely to lift over the next 12 months than in the shorter-term.

RICS said that more surveyors in Northern Ireland reported price increases rather than decreases for the first time since July 2007.

House prices in Northern Ireland have seen sharp falls since the start of the economic downturn, following a period of strong increases, and RICS said it will need to see similar results over the next few months "before being convinced that this market has turned a corner".

London remains the "standout performer" in terms of house price gains, while surveyors saw more modest increases in the South East.

Elsewhere in the UK, surveyors were generally less negative about prices than they have been recently. Wales, the South West and the Midlands all recorded flat or slightly negative price balances. Meanwhile, Scotland has seen less severe price falls in 2013 compared with last year.

In terms of sales, surveyors in the West Midlands have seen the biggest increases in homes sold since the start of the year, followed by those in London.

In contrast, the trend of sales increases was found to be flattest in East Anglia and the East Midlands, RICS said.

Lenders and estate agents have been reporting signs of a tentative housing market recovery following the launch of the Government's Funding for Lending scheme last August, which has prompted an increase in mortgage availability and is seeing lenders continue to slash their rates.

Further plans to help those with smaller deposits were recently unveiled in the Budget. The Government's Help to Buy Scheme will give a helping hand to people with deposits of just 5 per cent.

Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: "A buoyant, healthy property market is central to economic recovery and, while these are still very much early signs, it is encouraging that sales are beginning to pick-up.

"The increase in potential buyers getting out there and viewing property is particularly encouraging.

"Thanks to initiatives such as Funding for Lending, mortgages are becoming more accessible to buyers, which is gently easing the pressure on the market and freeing up stagnant chains."

PA

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