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Winter weather didn’t affect property sales in the UK, estate agents report indicates

Britain’s house hunters continued to brace the bad weather conditions in search of a new home, according to The National Association of Estate Agent’s market report for February.
While the bad weather had an impact on the number of people registering with an agent, the number of houses sold increased from six (5.7) in January to seven (6.8) in February.
But only 258 house hunters registered with an agent compared to 291 in January, the lowest number recorded over the last 12 months.
The number of houses available for sale increased slightly from 55 per branch in January to 56 in February, meaning there were still four house hunters for every property, the report shows. Also the percentage of sales made to first time buyers increased in January from 23% to 24%.
‘It’s encouraging to see that the bad weather hasn’t deterred agents from making sales this month even if it has stopped some house hunters from registering with an agent. These figures suggest that there’s an increasing appetite for property which will feed recovery over the next few months as the weather improves. This growing confidence is reflected in the fact that first time buyers now take up a quarter of the market,’ said President of the NAEA, Gary Smith.
‘Supply and demand continues to be an issue and one we are taking up with the Government ahead of the budget. More needs to be done to make house building a top priority over the next 12 months if we want the market to strengthen rather than stall,’ he added.
The report takes a different view to that of chartered surveyors, however. The most recent report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said that extreme weather caused fewer people to go and view homes and affected both prices and activity in the market.
The Nationwide Building Society also said that snowy weather affected the market, as did the end of the stamp duty holiday.
Meanwhile figures published yesterday by the department of Communities and Local Government shows that house prices were 8.9% higher in January than a year before and the average price of a property in the UK was £207,159.
But first time buyers are still struggling with mortgage lenders continue to insist on stringent criteria being met by homebuyers, including requiring a significant deposit from new borrowers.
The DCLG information is at odds with more recent updates from the Halifax and the Nationwide revealing prices fell for the first time in months during February.
‘The lagging nature of the DCLG data means that it does not fundamentally alter our belief that house prices will be erratic and prone to corrections in 2010, and will probably be no better than flat over the year,’ said Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight.
Financial Services Authority figures for the fourth quarter, also released yesterday, showed both arrears and repossessions continuing to fall, reflecting both the low level of interest rates and a general reluctance by lenders to push aggressively to take back properties without exploring every avenue to avoid such an outcome.