House prices defy economic gloom

David Newnes, director of LSL Property Services, owners of Your Move and Reeds Rains said: "Static house prices don’t mean property values are standing still.

"For buyers looking to get onto the market, 0% price growth means that in real terms property is becoming more affordable. With inflation running at 5%, the real cost of property is getting smaller and smaller, which is good news for buyers and mortgage borrowers alike.

"The resilience of property prices indicates that mortgage lenders and property buyers have not so far been spooked by the gloomy news emerging from the euro zone.

"Although prices have declined by 0.7% since November 2010, the rate of annual price decreases slowed everywhere except the North West and the East Midlands, with London – buoyed by foreign investors seeking a safe haven in the capital’s bricks and mortar – showing an acceleration in price rises to 3.1% last month.

"Low mortgage rates, along with the stamp duty holiday on properties below £250,000 and the modest boost provided by the Government’s FirstBuy scheme, have all contributed to prevent larger falls in 2011.

"According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, mortgage lending increased 9.8% in the year to October and has risen for the last three consecutive months for the first time since the summer of 2007, which has contributed to the 4.5% rise in transactions seen last month.

"However, we’re yet to see any significant decrease in the size of the deposits lenders require. Among buyers who have substantial deposits, demand remains strong and the rise in mortgage volumes suggests many people in this position are taking the opportunity to secure good properties while mortgage finance and property prices make purchasing a more and more affordable option."

Dr Peter Williams, housing market specialist and Chairman of Acadametrics, said: "On the basis of monthly change, house prices in November stood still.

"The average price in England & Wales now stands at £220,043, only £7 less than the average in October. The current average is £19,808, or 9.9%, above the price at the April 2009 trough of the last housing recession, but £11,785, or 5.1%, below the price peak of £231,828, recorded in February 2008.

"The relative stability in prices over the last two years is indicated, too, by our house price Index which stands, this month, at 224.0 and is virtually unchanged from the 223.9 index at January 2010.

"Since March 2010, there have, in fact, been only two months in which house prices have changed by 1% or more. However, these months (April and May this year) reflected the end March change to stamp duty levels, rather than fundamental movements in the housing markets."

He added: "All recent economic news and commentary has been negative regarding future prospects – too negative, some now suggest.

"Indeed, our commentary shows that the housing market in 2011 has performed better than expected – low interest rates and support for borrowers in difficulty have played their part.

"Going forward, the latest Bank of England Financial Stability report issued on 1 December commented that ‘forward looking indicators of housing market activity have remained weak’ while the Office for Budget Responsibility Economic and Fiscal Outlook published at the end of November suggested that house prices would fall slightly in 2012 and that transactions would remain subdued. Underpinning both sets of commentary is a recognition of tighter credit conditions and a lack of consumer confidence and capacity."

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