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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 09:35 GMT
Home buyers 'can pick and choose'
For sale signs
Potential buyers can afford to be more picky
The number of homes coming onto estate agents' books is at its highest level for nearly two years, a study has said.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said it is now a buyers' market as people can pick and choose from a rising number of properties.

RICS said there were 32% more homes on agents' books than a year ago, while worries over possible interest rate rises have kept buyer numbers low.

It also predicts modest falls in house prices over the coming months.

The institution said that many buyers were staying on the sidelines and monitoring what happens to interest rates, despite a generally strong economy and low unemployment.

Slowdown

UK house prices fell 0.1% in January, according to figures from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) released on Monday.

The annual rate of house price inflation fell to 10% from 10.7% the month before, the ODPM added. It was the third month in a row the ODPM has seen house price inflation fall.

Four interest rate hikes during 2004 have been widely credited with taking the steam out of the UK housing market.

The Nationwide, Halifax and the Land Registry have all said in recent months that house sale numbers are running well below the levels of late 2003 and the first half of 2004.

Housing experts are divided over prospects for the UK property market. Some analysts are predicting price falls of up to 20%, while other experts say the market will avoid a crash and is heading for a gentle slowdown.




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