Housing market hits a plateau

Estate agents are finding it harder to push up asking prices as supply continues to outweigh demand, figures from Hometrack suggest.

Figures from Hometrack’s national housing survey show that the time it takes to sell a property has held at 8.3 weeks for both April and March, though this has improved from the 10 weeks it took to sell at this time last year.

The proportion of asking prices being achieved has also levelled off at 94%, compared to 89% in April 2009.

The number of available properties went up by 3.7% in April while the number of new buyers registering with agents went up by just 1%.

The upcoming general election has been cited as a reason for buyer uncertainty, with the number of viewings per sale hitting 11.2 in April.

Sales figures have also dropped markedly going from an increase of 13% in March to just 6.3% this month.

Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, says: “The changing supply/demand balance together with clear evidence of growing price resistance and caution amongst buyers, suggests that we are set to see less upward pressure on pries in the near term.”

Yet the survey recorded that average house prices were up 0.2% in April, compared to the 0.3% increases seen in February and March. Price rises in London have boosted the national average, with prices rising in the capital up by 0.6% over April.

The year-on-year rate of house price growth is now at 1.8%, up from 1.3% last month.

Donnell adds: “It was clear that given the strong end to 2009 that spring 2010 was unlikely to compare with a traditional start to the selling year. There has been evidence for some months that the supply/demand balance has been changing steadily but the buyer slowdown has been exacerbated by the announcement of a May election.

“The bounce in market confidence over 2009 was all about pent-up demand feeding back into an under-supplied market.

“However, the fundamental issues which have plagued the economy for some time still remain. Rising unemployment, lack of mortgage funding, public spending cuts and the prospect of tax rises post-election continue to act as a back-drop to a fragile and increasingly polarised housing market.”