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Leading article: Good news – for some

Amid the general gloom, it is good to be able to report that one hitherto hard-pressed group of people can be optimistic going into the New Year. A Halifax survey shows that first-time buyers will find homes more affordable than they have been for five years, with a particular improvement over the past 18 months. If – as expected – prices continue to fall, homes should become more affordable still.

This will be scant consolation to existing home owners, who see the value of their biggest asset continuing to fall. But the knock-on effects could still be beneficial, bringing more mobility to the market, allowing some to move to a bigger home and reducing the pressure on parents to stump up deposits for their first-time buyer children.

Predictable regional differences persist. But with the key indicator – the price to earnings ratio – improving, we may have an early sign of normality returning. On which cheerful note, we wish all our readers a Happy New Year.