The latest house price statistics show that prices are still generally rising, but this does vary quite significantly, depending on where you live. The last word from the big two lenders was positive; Nationwide said that prices rose by 0.9% in September with the average house now being worth £161,816. Halifax has yet to release its figures for last month, but the August press release showed an average rise of 0.8%.
Others are less optimistic; Hometrack, the property data website, said that prices rose by just 0.2% in September to £156,100. Its monthly review of the market, which is based on a survey of agents and surveyors, says the market is 5.6% lower than a year ago. Other Hometrack statistics for the month of September include the number of new buyers up by 1.1% and the number of houses for sale remaining at a constant level (up by 0.1%).
The Land Registry figures, which tend to lag behind the rest but are regarded as being very accurate, show a fall in house prices of 0.1% in August to £155,968. Its figures do show a steep decline in the rate of fall though; 9.4% in August, compared to 16% in February. Additional statistics from the Land Registry really do indicate that the house prices really are a game of two halves. The annual price fall in London is cited as 6.2%, where as in the North West of England, prices have fallen by more than double that in the last 12 months (12.7%).
The ever-present demand for property in prime central London is borne out by the estate agency Knight Frank. Nowhere is supply lower and demand higher with prices in areas such as Chelsea, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill having gone up by 1.3% last month – the sixth consecutive monthly increase. Prices are also doing well in the prime country house sector, up 1% in the last quarter, with those in the London-commutable Home Counties going up by 2.1%.
The number of agreed mortgages fell slightly in August, according to the Bank of England. Approvals were at 52,317, down from 52,404 in the previous month. The remortgaging figures were worse; 29,000 takers in August, compared to 34,000 in July. A spokesperson from the Council of Mortgage Lenders blamed the weak economy, saying that there was no improvement in sight.
A resurgence in property sales would normally mean that the lettings market takes a hit. Not so according to the Association of Residential Lettings Agents (ARLA); it has reported a large number of new tenancies. Each ARLA agent has signed up an average of 36 new tenancies in this (the third) quarter, up from an average of 32.6 in the last quarter. The agency have put this down to people who have previously delayed setting up home, now feeling secure enough to proceed.