House prices slide despite more activity

Julian Harris
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<a href="";>HOUSE prices</a> continued their decline last month despite increasing signs of the market stabilising, two separate surveys have shown.

Prices were down 1.4 per cent in April, the Halifax announced yesterday, while this morning the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealed that 29 per cent of surveyors are still reporting falling prices, compared to just 12 per cent that found rising prices.

The negative balance, -16 per cent, is a modest improvement on the previous month (-20 per cent) with the survey revealing improvements in both supply and demand.

“The return of sellers to the market is positive, but activity still remains subdued,” said RICS housing spokesperson Michael Newey.

“Although there are signs that some lenders may be reducing their grip on the purse strings, there is still a long way to go before lending levels increase enough to have any real impact.”

Higher numbers of properties being placed on the market were reported by 18 per cent more chartered surveyors than those who reported a fall in supply – up from a positive balance of four per cent in March.

Meanwhile, enquiries stabilised, moving to a net balance of zero per cent and taking the series out of negative territory for the first time in ten months.

In April “good weather led to increased numbers of viewings from potential buyers in some parts of the UK”, some respondents found.

London continues to buck the trend of falling prices, with April marking yet another month where it was the only region reporting significantly rising prices.

Over a third (38 per cent) of surveyors in the capital reported higher prices in April, compared to just 15 per cent saying that prices fell.

Meanwhile, according to Halifax, across the UK the average house price stood at £160,395 in April – down 3.7 per cent from the £168,593 average at the same time last year.

The underlying trend, shown by a three monthly comparison of prices, is down 1.2 per cent, the research found.

Interest rates on mortgages are falling, particularly for high loan to value deals, the website Moneyfacts reported yesterday.

The average rate for borrowers with a 10 per cent deposit has dropped below six per cent (to 5.98 per cent) for the first time since March 2008, it announced.