Rise in house price optimism

Chartered surveyors have reported that expectations for future house prices were more optimistic during February as transaction levels continued to edge upwards.

The latest RICS UK Housing Market Survey reported that expectations for future prices saw a notable turnaround in February with surveyors reporting a net balance of 0%, compared with -14 in January. This is the first time since May 2010 that respondents have not been predicting further price declines.

RICS said that given the recent upturn in interest from first time buyers looking to beat the stamp duty exemption deadline, it would appear that surveyors are slowly becoming less pessimistic over prices.

Meanwhile, transaction levels continued to increase, with the average amount of sales per surveyor (by branch) moving up to 16, an increase of almost 4% on last month’s figure of 15.7. Although still historically low, RICS said this is the most positive reading since September 2010 and suggests that the improvement in activity seen in recent months is continuing.

However, prices across the UK continued to dip during February, albeit at the slowest rate for over a year and a half. 13% more chartered surveyors reported price falls rather than rises in the last month. Regionally, London was again the only part of the country to see prices increase, while surveyors in the West Midlands and Northern Ireland saw the least positive readings.

Fresh interest from potential buyers was relatively flat during February with a net balance of three% more respondents reporting increases in demand. Surveyors report that problems accessing affordable mortgage finance continue to hinder many first time buyers who would otherwise be looking to get onto the property ladder.

New instructions, which indicate supply levels to the market, saw a slight upturn with 9% more surveyors reporting instructions rose rather than fell. New stock coming to the market has now risen, albeit relatively modestly, for five successive months.

Surveyors expect transaction levels to continue to rise. A net balance of 20% more surveyors predict sales to increase over the coming three months.

Alan Collett, RICS housing spokesperson, said: “With the recent upturn in activity brought on by the end of the stamp duty holiday