New hope for East Anglian housing market
East Anglian estate agents were last night cautiously optimistic after new figures revealed that house prices had risen by 2.6pc in May. The increase represents the biggest jump in prices since October 2002, leaving the average UK property costing �158,565 according to the Halifax.
East Anglian estate agents were last night cautiously optimistic after new figures revealed that house prices had risen by 2.6pc in May.
The increase represents the biggest jump in prices since October 2002, leaving the average UK property costing �158,565 according to the Halifax.
But while it is good news for home owners, first time buyers may still find it hard to get a foot on the property ladder.
Estate agents locally report a significant increase in activity in the property market, with one company reporting more than double the number of house sales in May 2009, compared to the same period last year.
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However, opinion is divided on whether house prices have finally reached rock bottom, and are really on the way up.
The latest Halifax figures are in line with those reported by Nationwide last week which showed house prices rising by 1.2pc during May - the second rise in three months for the society's index.
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There have also been positive signs with the Bank of England revealing that mortgage approvals for house purchases rose for the third month in a row during April to stand at their highest level for just over a year.
The Bank's decision yesterday to hold interest rates at their 0.5pc record low follows better news from many industry surveys, as well as the housing market.
Callum Taylor, mid-Norfolk area director for estate agent WH Brown, said: 'Our volume of sales has significantly increased on last year, with sales in May 2009 in many of our offices across Norfolk and Suffolk over twice the volume of May '08 which does bode well.
'Our viewing levels are up dramatically, our sales that have been agreed are up dramatically, and our major issue is there's not enough new stock coming into the market place, and reluctance by some people to enter the market.'
David Walker of Bidwells in Norwich, said after a 'fairly dire' final quarter of 2008, there has been a much higher level of transactions this year.
'All of 2009 so far has been much stronger probably than we dared hope for, with far better levels of activity. It is very much price driven and is simply because property has been perceived as much better value and hence more affordable,' he said.
Mike Sarson, of Diss estate agents TW Gaze, painted a similar picture.
'There is certainly a lot more activity. Viewing levels have probably trebled since Easter, but that is from a very low level. I would say the market is good. I think we might have a year of peaks and troughs and that the market has pretty much bottomed out, but I am not convinced that prices are rising,' he said.
Frances Rushmer from estate agent Savills in Norwich, also reported increased activity in the housing market since Easter.
'I think now is a good time to buy, and anyone who's looking to move house has to be realistic about their house price.'
'I certainly don't feel that house prices are rising and our research department based in London is talking about prices down by 25pc from the peak in 2007. I feel it is really too early to say whether we have reached the bottom or whether there is further to go,' she said.
Estate agents nationally are also continuing to see buyers returning to the market, tempted by the record low interest rates and recent house price falls. And a Nationwide spokesman did not anticipate the latest price rise having a significant impact on this trend.
'The average house price is over 11.3pc lower than a year ago which is obviously helpful to fist time buyers and those trying to enter the housing market and it is only very recently that prices have gone up overall. So the impact is small,' the spokesman said.
Norwich-based Christopher Hall, past president of the National Association of Estate Agents, added: 'This is one more indicator that the pent-up demand in the housing market is beginning to move in the right direction. Agents are reporting increased sales, more people wanting to look for property and a healthy resurgence in first time buyers.
'That said, it would be crazy to speak as if the property market has recovered. The Government must do everything in its power to help ensure that this is not a bubble.'
The Halifax has also cautioned against reading too much into the increase, warning that even during a pronounced downturn house prices did not always move in the same direction month after month. But there were 'tentative indications' that activity was stabilising, albeit at a low level.
However, despite the pick-up in activity, economists still expect property prices to fall further as rising unemployment and the continuing problems in the mortgage market continue to act as a brake on property sales.