March house price slowdown

Nia Williams

March 15, 2010

According to Rightmove’s March house price index, asking prices grew by 0.1%, the lowest rise ever recorded at this time of year. However, previously snowbound sellers have returned, with 34% more properties being put on the market compared with March 2009. The first quarter of 2010 however, showed asking prices up by 3.7% (£8,151) despite distortions from the severe weather.

Commenting, Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, said: “As usual we’ve seen a winter price lull followed by a New Year bounce, though at a national level it’s never previously fizzled out before spring has really sprung. Observers of the market should note that new sellers are up by over a third on March last year and by 17.5% on last month, so in some areas more restrained pricing is required as a direct consequence of buyers having more choice. We still forecast some further rises in the first half of this year when buyers have picked over the newly marketed stock, though the small increase in March shows how much more unpredictable the market has become.”

The average unsold stock per estate agency branch has increased slightly from 63 to 65 properties, and this important statistic should be monitored closely as it will be a leading indicator of future trends in asking prices.

Mortgage lending figures stalled in January, according to Rightmove. However, we are now seeing an increase in products available for would-be first-time buyers although that still leaves the majority of aspiring first-time buyers out of financial favour. In the recent Rightmove Consumer Confidence Survey, 61% of those in rented accommodation stated they would like to buy but could not currently afford to do so.

Shipside concluded: “We’ve waited two years for significant relaxation of mortgage lending criteria, and whilst it is giving the market a welcome nudge in the right direction, many aspiring buyers are still finding themselves left out in the cold. They could find the requirements of the Homebuy scheme more suited to their circumstances and a possible housing lifeline if they only knew more about it.”

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