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Online House Hunter: Bank Holiday Blues

Alan Cleaver
seaside 300x200 Online House Hunter: Bank Holiday Blues

Bank holiday weekends are being blamed for the faltering housing market

THE bank holidays are to blame – At least in part – for the still struggling housing market. So say chartered surveyors in a new survey.

And it’s easy to see why with a seemingly endless run of bank holidays, Easter breaks and royal weddings in the first five months of this year. How is anyone to get any work done? One suspects the announcement of two bank holiday days next year to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee went down like a lead balloon in housing circles.

This week has seen another batch of headlines trying to sum up in half a dozen words a very complex housing market. Which is one explanation for the discrepancy between those claiming mortgages rose (they rose 8% month on month) or fell (down 2% year on year).

In this age of the hyperlink, it’s surprising that more journalists don’t include a link to the original data so that readers can judge for themselves the value of the information and whether they want to compare data with last month, last year or the last decade.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’s figures for example can be found here and although widely quoted as definitive figures by the press, are simply the views of 257 members of RICS nationwide. Their views count of course but how many journalists made it clear how the data was compiled?

Yet to me – and I’m sure many other readers – the views of the RICS members quoted in the survey give the best insight into what’s really happening in the market. Here’s just a taster:

The North: “..sales are proving frustratingly difficult even at sensible or competitive prices” – Penrith; “The market is very active with sellers coming to the fore. This activity is being translated as an improving market. The reality is that the number of buyers able to proceed remains limited and price remain under pressure” – Carlisle.

North West: “The market in Southport remains stagnant. Very few first-time buyers”; “A large number of public sector workers are fearful for their future job security and are unwilling to commit” – Liverpool.

West Midlands: “Correctly priced properties, especially in the middle to higher end of the market in Walsall are showing signs of improvement but it is only sensibly and realistically priced properties, as there is a shortage of this type of property”; “Lack of buyer confidence and vendor expectations too high mean a viewing to sale ratio which is too high” – Solihull.

East Anglia: “Stock quality is very good. Unfortunately buyers seem to have cooled and are becoming increasingly cautious” – Norfolk. “There are encouraging signs of increased activity in the market” – Suffolk.

South East: “A tough market! Lack of stock, non-committal purchasers, problems with funding and fears about unemployment and interest rates rising have led to an uncertain market place” – Guildford; “The market remains cautious” – Andover.

South West: “The lack of available mortgage funds particularly for first-time buyers and sellers is creating problems in the lower sector of the market. The market remains very price sensitive” – Bideford, Devon; “Quality properties remain popular, but accurate pricing remains crucial” – Plymouth.

The views start to bring the confusing mix of statistics into focus – they give good, hard advice straight from the horse’s mouth. Let’s hope economists, home buyers and home sellers listen to them.

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