Modest improvements in housing sector

Nia Williams

March 14, 2011

This is according to property services group Countrywide, which found that property viewings – one of the leading indicators of buyer appetite – increased by 40% in February across Countrywide’s network of 1,300 estate agency and lettings offices.

The number of sales agreed rose by 47% in February; however, overall sales volumes were 4% lower than the same period last year.

Despite a marginal increase in the number of properties available to rent in February, lack of supply remains an area of concern according to Countrywide. As tenant demand in the private rental sector jumped by 11% with over 19,000 new tenants registering for rental accommodation in February.

Commenting, Grenville Turner, chief executive of Countrywide, the UK’s largest property services Group, said: “We are beginning to see some early signs of improvement in the property market, whether this can be sustained against a backcloth of challenging economic conditions is difficult to determine.

“The reintroduction of competitive mortgage products is the key to turn the increase in buyer activity we’ve seen into house sales. Gathering a deposit remains a big hurdle for many would-be buyers.

“With four of the most popular mortgages applied for in February requiring a 10% deposit, this shows that the level of demand for these types of mortgages and highlights the issue of affordability. With more mortgages available requiring only a 10% deposit there are positive signs of increased lender appetite.

“Ongoing economic pressures and the upward trajectory of inflation will increase pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates at some stage, which is why we’re seeing an ever-increasing number of people applying for fixed rate products to give themselves the certainty of mortgage payments for between 2 and 5 years.”

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