Page last updated at 10:54 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 11:54 UK

Home sales rise in summer months

For Sale signs
House sales in the UK were 58% higher than in the first three months of 2009

Property sales in the UK picked up over the summer, according to figures from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Sales rose from 80,000 in August to 82,000 in September.

More significantly, sales in the third quarter of the year, covering July to September, were 11% higher than in the previous three months.

The rise in sales has also led to an increase in the number of complaints to the Property Ombudsman, which have risen by 17% in the past quarter.

The Ombudsman exists to resolve disputes between estate agents and their customers.

Sales disputes

Currently, a majority of the Ombudsman's workload involves complaints about lettings.

In July, August and September, the Ombudsman, Christopher Hamer, received 1,679 enquiries about lettings (up 16% over the previous quarter) and 966 about sales (down 10%).

Only a minority of enquiries become formal complaints which are then investigated.

But in the third quarter there were 127 new cases opened about lettings (up 9% on the previous quarter) and 122 about sales (up 17%).

"The statistics... show the continuing trend of increasing lettings disputes referred to my office," said Mr Hamer.

"I have noted, however, a small surge in sales disputes and whilst there has been much talk about the market beginning to pick up, if that is true it will be some months yet before that has an effect on my workload."

Seeking trends

The figures on property sales from the Revenue chime with those published this week by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

They showed that total mortgage lending in the third quarter, including lending to people who were simply changing their mortgage deals but not moving, was 18% higher than in the previous three months.

The latest data though does not necessarily suggest that sales will continue to increase.

The Revenue's sales figures for July, August and September were 86,000, 80,000 and 82,000 respectively, suggesting that sales may in fact have reached a plateau.

The Bank of England reported last month that the number of mortgages approved for house purchase, but not yet lent, dropped back in August.

Approvals are the best indicator of short-term sales trends, and the August total was the first monthly fall for 10 months.

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