Its hard to know what the justification might be for the Daily Express running the “House price boom starts again’ headline today. Sure, the Halifax monthly survey looked positive yesterday coming on the day that their parent, Lloyds Bank announced £4bn losses. Since we the tax payer now owns the majority of Lloyds, it’s hard to think what might have lessened the impact of such a huge loss for us. The RiCS survey out today will have encouraged the eager headline writers at the Express with their copy although closer inspection of both together with one foot in the real world would have shown the true picture of the UK housing market.
Luckily, a rather more credible and measured survey comes in the shape of the National Association of Estate Agents market update which is long on fact and much shorter on speculation.
The key findings from NAEA appear to be;-
• Number of house hunters registered with estate agents increased from 290 in June to 292 in July
• Number of sales agreed per agent decreased from an average of ten in June to nine (8.6) in July
• Average number of properties available for sale decreased from 64 in June to 59 in July
• Percentage of first time buyers (FTBs) decreased from 26% in June- to 22% in July
• The gap between asking and selling prices increased from 1.9 % in June to 7.5% in July
Recognising that the summer has brought a stronger market for what little is actually selling they say that the number of house hunters registering with estate agents has increased as one might expect from an average of 290 to 292 (not much of a headline, I grant you) but this is down from May’s figure of 299.
Sales per agent are up at 8.6 compared to 5.2 in August last year but remember that with approximately 30% few estate agents these figures are bound to look much better than they would have had there still been 12,000.
NAEA members reflect my own numbers on the stock of available property with roughly 59 per agent, down from 64 in June and 100 at Christmas.
The severe slow down in the number of sales is hurting both estate agents and mortgage lenders so it is perhaps not surprising perhaps to see their collective PR people running around like drunken sailors on shore leave desperate to encourage more business. The peep, peep, peep you can hear in the background is the life support machine for the UK housing market. Whilst the patient may be improving, the situation is still critical and there will be a long, painful road to recovery before we can justify the kind of headlines that some have seen fit to publish.