Housing market 'on the move' at last

Fresh evidence emerged last night that the housing slump may be nearing an end amid signs that cheap property prices are tempting more people to look for a new home.


month, this may be enough to offset rising unemployment, and could lead to house prices bottoming out by the third quarter of this year.

"The last month has seen the first real encouraging data on the

housing market for quite some time," it said.

"Both the Halifax and Nationwide price indices have recently seen their first monthly rises since the end of 2007, although both can be taken with a large pinch of salt given the vanishingly small sample sizes that these indices are now based upon.

"However, the Halifax index for the first quarter of this year also

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showed the smallest quarter-on-quarter fall in prices since the first quarter of 2008, which is a little

more interesting and a possible sign that prices are starting to bottom out."

Ian Harris, senior valuer at the Norwich office of Watsons, and chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Association of Estate Agents, said he was cautiously optimistic.

"I'm more encouraged than I was. There are, across the board, genuine signs of improvement. It's been distinctly noticeable that inquiry levels from first-time buyers have improved significantly since the start of the year," he said.

Cash buyers were also entering the market, he said, but warned: "There is no appetite for paying high prices. Nobody's charging into the market with gay abandon. People are researching the market carefully, looking at what properties are going for and making offers at less than asking price.

"Bearing in mind we have very low interest rates at the moment, we need to see the volume of sales recover and confidence come back with buyers and sellers before we can start getting too excited."

David Warner, partner in Wymondham-based Warners, said the market was healthier, but that a lack of available finance was holding it back.

"We've noticed that the desire to move has never been greater. A lot of people are thinking out of the box, doing things like renting properties and borrowing money from family," he said.

"We're not seeing any great increase in the ability to borrow money, but we have seen sales double or treble over the last two or three months. We were seeing five or six sales a month, but now we're up to 15 plus. That's still a lot lower than we would usually get at this time of year, though.

"If money was slightly more readily available, confidence would return with alacrity.

"Our problem is where the finance is coming from. If we get the levels of funding we keep getting promised, I can see this sustaining for quite a while."

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