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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 08:43 GMT
House price falls more widespread
Estate agent's window
Prices are now starting to fall in many parts of the country
House prices in the UK fell for the fourth month in a row in November, says the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

Its latest survey shows that price falls became more widespread, with 58% of its members reporting a drop in prices over the previous three months.

Just 2% of members said that prices were still rising.

Prices fell in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and rose only in Scotland, said Rics.

The Rics report backs up the evidence of other surveys which have all shown a recent downturn in the market.

"It is clear that the housing market continues to feel the strain of depressed market conditions," said a Rics spokesman, Jeremy Leaf.

"The recent credit crunch continues to hit confidence in the market. However, while underlying economic fundamentals remain sound and the labour market remains strong, large falls in prices remain unlikely," he added.

Slowdown

House price inflation and new mortgage approvals have slowed considerably under the impact of past increases in interest rates, combined with the impact of the Northern Rock crisis.

Buyers have got no confidence, sellers have got no confidence
Trevor Kent, estate agent

Rics said that inquiries from new buyers were still falling heavily, while the number of newly-agreed sales was dropping at its fastest rate since 1999, when Rics first started questioning its members about them.

Surveyors also think that banks and building societies are becoming more fussy about the customers they are prepared to lend to, knocking activity in the market further.

As a result, they are at their gloomiest about the state of the market since 1998.

"Sales generally are looking very sick indeed," said Trevor Kent, an estate agent from Gerrards Cross.

"One expects this to be the case before Christmas, but this is unprecedented.

"It doesn't look as if it is going to be very promising for the next few months - buyers have got no confidence, sellers have got no confidence," he said.

Rate cut

Last week the Bank of England cut interest rates, for the first time since 2005, by 0.25%.

The UK's three biggest mortgage lenders have passed this on in full to their borrowers.

But with more than a million homeowners moving off cheap fixed-rate mortgages in the coming year, this is unlikely to make a difference on its own to the expense of borrowing a mortgage.

This week, the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) reported that mortgage interest costs were swallowing up more of the incomes of mortgage holders than at any time since the early 1990s.



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