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UK house sales increase, NI prices fall

For sale signs in Northern Ireland.

Overall house sales have increased for four months in a row in the UK, in further signs that confidence in the market is picking up, surveyors have reported.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013
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However, Northern Ireland and Scotland continue to record falling prices.

A total of 15% more surveyors said that sales rose rather than fell in January, continuing a general trend of sales increases seen for four consecutive months.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that sales are predicted to rise further as spring approaches but prices are expected to remain flat.

On the whole, house prices have remained stable, with 4% more surveyors saying that prices fell rather than increased last month.

RICS said that across the country, prices continued their upward march in London and the South East - and also moved into positive territory in Wales for the first time since early 2010.

The West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside regions saw the most severe price falls.

RICS also said that demand from would-be buyers has dipped slightly since the start of the new year, with a balance of 9% surveyors saying that new enquiries fell in January. There was also a slight fall in the number of homes coming on the market.

However, surveyors suggested that the recent bad weather was behind the recent softening in the figures.

Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: "Price falls across the UK have gradually stemmed in recent months and it is interesting to see that the amount of completed transactions are on the rise, as confidence returns to the marketplace.

"While it is still very early days to talk about a comprehensive market recovery, activity levels are still encouraging and there is some optimism out there that things could continue to improve."
Mr Bolton King said that the "lofty deposits" required by many lenders are still preventing many would-be first-time buyers from getting on the ladder.

Activity in the market has been boosted in recent months by the Government's Funding for Lending scheme, which aims to unblock the flow of credit by giving lenders access to cheap finance.

Competition so far has been particularly strong around people with deposits of 40% or more as lenders have battled to drive rates below 2% and many of these deals have also come with hefty fees.

But there have also been signs of greater competition to attract first-time buyers and people with lower amounts of equity, such as Barclays' recently-launched "family springboard" mortgage for people with a 5% deposit and a selection of fee-free deals from the Co-op.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) recently reported an uplift in lending to first-time buyers and has said it expects sales generally to pick up this year.