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Consumer confidence in UK property market stable despite economic gloom

The 14th quarterly Property Tracker survey from the Building Societies Association (BSA) shows that 44% would buy now compared with 41% in the March survey. Just 25% said it was not a good time to buy.
Consumer sentiment is regarded as a key indicator of future activity in the property market and provides an early snapshot of potential activity in 2012.

The results showed age and regional variations reflecting the mood of the country.  Those aged over 55 had the most positive view of the current market with 54% saying that now was a good time to buy. But 18 to 24 year olds were the least sure with 32% agreeing it was a good time to buy.
The public in Scotland and the South East and North East regions were the most positive about the market with results above the national total at 49%, 48% and 47% respectively. Surprisingly consumers in London were amongst the least positive with just 42% believing that now was a good time to buy.  This may reflect the higher house prices in the capital, the BSA said.
Overall, 12% of respondents intend to buy next year whereas 63% said that they had no need or desire to move in 2012 and 17% said that they would not be in a position to move. A further 8% were put off moving for some reason such as the outlook for jobs or the size of deposit required.
Those aged over 55 have the least intention to buy next year at just 8% with 24 to 34 year olds having the highest intention to buy in the next 12 months at 21%.
Looking across different regions, Londoners had the greatest intention to buy next year, with 21% saying that they intend to purchase property. The regions where intentions are next highest are the West Midlands at 16%, the South East, and Yorkshire and the Humber both at 15%. In contrast, those in Wales have the least intention to buy with just 5% saying they would do so followed by 6% in the North East and the 7% in the North West.

The survey also shows that challenges remain in realising intentions to buy. Raising the deposit to buy a property was the biggest hurdle with 64% saying it would prevent them for buying followed by 57% saying obtaining a large enough mortgage was the main problem and 54% having fears over job security. Far fewer see the potential for future house price falls as a barrier with just 21% regarding this as a problem.

More men than women see the potential for falling house prices as a barrier to purchase, 24% compared to 18%. The 24 to 34 age group are the most concerned about their ability to raise a deposit at 70%, 6% above the national total and more women see job security as an issue with 57% of female respondents citing it as a barrier compared to 51% of men.

Those aged over 55 are the most concerned about job security with 63% seeing it as a barrier compared to the national total of 54%. The 18 to 34 year olds seem least concerned about this factor at 46%.

Views are mixed about what will happen to property prices in 2012. Some 33% overall expect prices to rise compared to 28% who believe that they will fall and 20% who see them staying the same.
Men are more bullish than women with 35% expecting prices to be higher this time next year. However, 36% of young adults aged 18 to 34 said that they don't know what to expect.
Conversely, the 50 to 54 age group who have seen house prices rise and fall before are the most positive with 37% expecting prices to rise, though the majority of this group expect it to rise by less than 2%.
Regionally, consumers in the West Midlands and Scotland have the highest expectations with 38% and 40% respectively thinking there will be price rises. At the other end of the spectrum, only 23% of the respondents in the North East expect prices to rise compared to 31% who expect them to fall.
‘Although there has been a stream of gloomy economic news recently and the uncertainty about the Eurozone has increased dramatically, consumers' views on the housing market remain remarkably solid. Many people believe that it is currently a good time to buy, and about one in eight will be looking to enter the market or move in 2012,’ said Paul Broadhead, BSA head of mortgage policy.

‘Government policy announcements such as the new build indemnity scheme indicate how important the housing market is to the UK economy, so the fact that confidence is not weakening is reassuring. More is in the pipeline to help break down the barriers to home ownership, although this must always be tempered with a responsible approach to lending as home ownership is not always the most appropriate choice for everyone,’ he explained.

‘So far this year building societies and other mutual lenders have supported those who have wanted to buy property, with gross lending by mutuals up 15% year on year, while across the rest of the market mortgage lending is slightly down,’ he added.