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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 01:10 GMT
UK housing market strengthens
'For Sale' sign
Prices rises are expected to continue at slower pace
Inquiries about house purchases increased in the final three months of last year, a closely-watched survey of chartered surveyors said.

Findings on house price trends from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors also put paid to fears that last year's soaring house prices could go into reverse.

In England and Wales, Rics members received 12% more requests for residential surveys between October and December 2001 than in the previous three months.

But the growth in new inquiries has yet to be mirrored in a substantial increase in completed sales.

'Optimism'

"The growth in new enquiries reflects general optimism from buyers as the economy continues to hold firm," Rics said.


There has obviously been a period of wait-and-see for potential buyers

Ian Perry, RICS

Interest rates at 40-year lows are also helping to boost the housing market.

House prices leapt by well more than 10% last year, major mortgage lenders said, sparking widespread fears of a return to negative equity if prices fall again.

However, the general opinion among lenders is that rises will continue during 2002, but at a more sedate pace of about 5%.

Prices set to rise

Just under half of surveyors expect house prices to go on rising during the next three months.

But more chartered surveyor estate agents reported price rises in December.

The gap between those identifying increases and those reporting falls widened to 13% from 2% in the previous month, Rics said.

And while prices in the North are beginning to catch up with those in the South East, the recent price falls in more expensive parts of the country appear to have stopped.

"The price falls reported towards the end of 2001 in London and the South East have come to an end, with South East prices stabilising."

Levelling up

The biggest increases were in the North.

House price rises in the Yorkshire and Humberside region outstripped those in the rest of Britain, the survey found.

In the North West of England, 42% more chartered surveyors reported price rises than price falls.

And in the North East, the gap was 36%.

In London, "the rate of price falls slowed considerably", Rics said.

Average completed sales in December were the same as November, but still 6% up on three months before, Rics said.

"There has obviously been a period of wait-and-see for potential buyers," Rics national housing spokesman Ian Perry said.

See also:

08 Jan 02 | Business
UK house price growth 'very strong'
03 Jan 02 | Business
UK house price growth 'past peak'
02 Jan 02 | Wales
House price rises to continue
27 Dec 01 | Business
UK house price growth 'to halve'
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