Frosty start to 2010 for estate agents

HEAVY snow and icy conditions froze activity in the housing market last month but estate agents continued to report rising prices, according to the latest survey from the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Although a net 32 per cent of estate agents saw property prices continue to rise, compared to 30 per cent in December, both buying and selling activity fell last month.

Buyer enquiries plunged back into negative territory for the first time in 14 months as 20 per cent more estate agents said they saw falling rather than rising enquiries last month. New instructions dropped for the first time in seven months as five per cent reported a decline in new instructions, compared to a positive balance of 15 per cent in December.

Surveyors are optimistic that these poor results are temporary – the number expecting rising house prices increased from 12 per cent to 24 per cent while the number of surveyors expecting sales to pick up over the next quarter tripled in January.

RICS spokesman Ian Perry said: “The cold snap in January clearly has a huge impact upon both supply and demand in the housing market with activity coming to a halt amidst the seasonal chaos.

Activity and interest is likely to pick up in the coming months as the market experiences a spring bounce.”

House prices have been driven up by a shortage of stock, but the average stock of property on surveyors’ books actually increased by 3.5 per cent on the month to 64.8 per surveyor.

Perry added: “House prices are likely to rise in the short term but if more supply comes on to the market, it is possible that the market will run out of steam in the latter part of the year.”