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West Midlands bucks UK trend in enquiries.

Buyer interest continued to grow across the UK in February but in contrast to this the West Midlands saw a slowdown in enquiries, says RICS' UK housing market survey published this week.

Interest in the market remained strong nationally for the fourth consecutive month. 20 percent more chartered surveyors reported a rise than a fall in new buyer enquiries up from 15 percent in January. However, here in the West Midlands interested waned somewhat as 23 percent less Chartered Surveyors reported a rise compared to January.

Interest is strong in most regions with London and the south of England leading the way. In fact interest in London reached levels not seen since October 2006. The rise in interest reflects both the drop in asking prices and continued interest rate cuts. As house prices fall, those with finance continue to look for bargain opportunities.

However, this pent-up demand has not translated into sales. The average across the UK for the number of transactions per agency (over the last three months) is now at 9.5, a drop from 9.8 in November, and the lowest figure since the survey began in 1978. In the West Midlands this figure fell back to 9 from 12 in January, while London agents experienced the worst transaction levels with only six properties sold per agency over the past three months.

The number of surveyors reporting house price falls in the region decreased slightly in February with 84 per cent more Chartered Surveyors indicating a fall than rise in house prices, down from 87 per cent in January. This compares nationally to a continued increase with 78.3 per cent more Chartered Surveyors indicating a fall than rise in house prices in February, up from 76.6 per cent in January.

Despite depressing repossessions data, the net balance of surveyors reporting new instructions to sell remains in negative territory indicating that supply is very tight. In the current market, a lack of mortgage finance and economic conditions are restricting the ability of many to consider the option of entering the market. However, surveyors remain optimistic that sales will pick up in the coming months with nine percent more Chartered Surveyors in the West Midlands expecting sales to increase in the coming three months.

Richard Franklin, RICS West Midlands said: "Potential buyers continue to come through estate agency doors but without accessible mortgage finance the housing market is at a standstill and transaction levels at an all time low. The delay in obtaining mortgage finance, even for those with large deposits, is also causing a log-jam in the market. In some instances the time lapse between valuation and completion has jeopardised deals. Family homes remain in demand but flats are simply not selling as first-time buyers are struggling to gain a foothold on the property ladder.

"The underlying consensus is one of frustration on all fronts. The compound effects of an active housing market in terms of employment security, retail spending and feel-good factor are tangible benefits everybody can relate to far more than the untested theoretical benefits of qualitative easing. Direct stimulus is required to unblock the jams and allow transactions to increase to the good of the population at large."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 13, 2009
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