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House prices fall in run up to Christmas

ASKING prices for homes in England and Wales are expected to see three months of price falls as sellers postpone moving until after the Christmas period, property website Rightmove will say today.<br /><br />The 1.6 per cent monthly fall in November marks an end to the buoyancy that has characterised the property market during the autumn as a shortage of new stock and improving confidence underpinned price rises.<br /><br />Miles Shipside, commercial director at Rightmove, said: &ldquo;While the market has recovered from some dreadful lows, this month&rsquo;s price fall proves that it does not yet have the strength to buck seasonal trends.&rdquo; <br /><br />&ldquo;We therefore expect three months of asking price falls before a tentative recovery in early spring, likely followed by pre-election jitters.&rdquo;<br /><br />Although the asking price of an average property slipped back to &pound;226,440 in November, the 1.6 per cent annual increase is the largest yearly rise since May 2008 and seven out of 10 regions are now seeing prices higher than they were this time last year.<br /><br />London sellers dropped their asking prices by 3.1 per cent in November, but the average asking price of a property in the capital remined above &pound;400,000.<br /><br />Sellers coming onto the market in the lead-up to the seasonal festivities often have a more pressing need to move and are aware that they have to price more competitively to attract buyers. <br /><br />But while Rightmove expects a seasonal lull &ndash; a shortage of stock has helped prices to stabilise, and then begin to recover in recent months &ndash; lower volumes mean that fluctuations due to seasonal volatility are exaggerated.<br /><br />Contrary to what many property analysts have expected, Rightmove does not anticipate a flood of transactions in December ahead of the expiry of the stamp duty holiday on 31 December.<br /><br />Shipside added: &ldquo;The incentive has been rendered almost irrelevant by lenders&rsquo; high deposit requirements. However, its withdrawal adds to the uncertainty surrounding the property market in 2010, which will also have to cope with the slowdown that an actively contested election always brings.&rdquo;<br />