House sales up at half-year stage, says HMRC

Completed property sales in the first half of the year were 11% up on the same period last year, figures from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) show.

Sales rose by 7,000 in June to 83,000, taking the total across the UK for the first six months of the year to 431,000.

That was higher than the 387,000 recorded in the first half of 2011.

Some commentators have suggested that sales may tail off in the rest of the year due to the economic downturn.

This week the British Bankers' Association (BBA) reported that new mortgages approved by its members but not yet lent - a key indicator of forthcoming trends - had dropped by 11% in June compared with the previous month.

It blamed the exceptionally wet weather.

Last week the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) said its members' total lending, to both house buyers and those just switching lenders, fell back in June from May.

However it pointed out that this had still left total lending for the first half of the year 7% higher than in the same period last year.

One factor boosting sales and borrowing in the first half was the reintroduction of stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £250,000.

Some buyers pushed through their purchases in the early months of the year, to beat the reintroduction of the tax on 24 March.

Sales then fell back sharply but have rebounded in the past couple of months.