Business

House prices still falling, surveyors say

Man looking in an estate agent's window
Image caption Sales have been falling again, as well as prices

House prices continue to be dragged lower by a shortage of buyers, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

Its latest monthly survey reports that more than half (55%) of its members who work as estate agents said prices fell locally in the past three months.

Only 4% said that prices were rising.

Rics said the continued pressure on house prices was due to caution by potential buyers and the continued rationing of mortgages by lenders.

"New buyer enquiries dropped for the fifth consecutive month as the housing market slowed further during October," Rics said.

"Respondents to the survey report that the market is generally cautious, with many buyers signalling that they are going to wait until the spring to make a decision."

Slowing down

The Rics survey underlines the evidence of recent reports from lenders such as the Halifax and the Nationwide.

They have both reported that prices have drifted lower in the past few months, and are now barely higher than they were a year ago.

The Rics survey only took the opinion of 278 surveyors, but it is widely regarded as having its finger on the pulse of the market.

Its latest report for October shows that the number of completed sales fell to an average of just 15.2 per surveyor in the past three months, from 16.7 in the three months to September.

Rics said this was the worst level of sales since June last year.

"[This] highlights the failure of transaction activity to benefit in a meaningful way from either from the current stamp duty holiday or the stronger-than-expected GDP data over the past couple of quarters," it warned.

One new feature was that the number of new properties being put up for sale also fell back, the first drop since January, which Rics suggested might stop any dramatic further falls in prices.

"Buyer numbers have decreased and new properties coming to the market [are] slowing down," said John Frost of the Frost Partnership in Burnham, Buckinghamshire.

Stephen Gadsby, of Gadsby Orridge, in Derby said: "Lack of mortgage funding especially the availability to first time buyers is the main obstacle in the market."

Ray Saunders of Webbers Property Services of Bideford in Devon, said: "Generally people have been waiting to see what government policy will have in terms of jobs etc on their own situations."

Mortgage 'plateau'

The severity of mortgage rationing changed eased only slightly in the past month, according to the latest figures from financial information service Moneyfacts.

It said the number of mortgage deals available to borrowers with deposits of between 0% and 40% rose only slightly; up by 20 to 2170 at the start of November.

The proportion of them requiring a downpayment of at least 25% fell only slightly to 51%.

A year ago a deposit of at least 25% was required by 66% of all mortgage deals on offer.

"The mortgage market has reached a plateau with no real movement in the number of deal for borrowers with a small deposit," said Michelle Slade at Moneyfacts.

"Lenders continue to target borrowers with at least a 20% deposit and continue to launch their most competitive deals to these borrowers."

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