Housing market sees signs of life, say surveyors

Activity in the UK housing market showed some signs of picking up in October, according to the latest poll of surveyors.

Sales and new buyer inquiries edged up compared with the previous month, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said.

One theory from the industry was that sellers were becoming more realistic about pricing homes.

However, the picture remained dark for first-time buyers' prospects.


Economic conditions - including low wage growth, relatively high unemployment and restricted lending from banks - would have suggested that prices should have dropped sharply over the last year or two.

However, various surveys have shown that prices have remained relatively static. Nationwide Building Society recently described house prices in the UK as "treading water".

Some surveyors have now reported that some sellers are becoming more willing to take lower offers to secure a sale. This meant 8% more surveyors reported a rise in newly agreed sales than those who reported a fall.

Although low compared with the boom years in the market, this was the highest level on this measure since April 2010.

Completed sales and new buyer enquiries rose compared with September, the Rics survey showed.

A greater proportion of surveyors reported that prices had fallen, rather than risen, and they expected this trend to continue.

"It is encouraging that activity levels appear to have edged upwards over the past month. Indeed, chartered surveyors are generally upbeat about the near-term prospects for transactions," said Ian Perry, housing spokesman for Rics.

This comes the day after the Halifax said that housing market activity had been "highly resilient" despite weakness in the UK and global economy.

However, Mr Perry warned that the effects of the eurozone crisis would mean any recovery in sales would be modest, and affect the ability of UK banks to lend. This could mean that first-time buyers will still need high deposits.

"This will inevitably leave many people who would like to own a home unable to access the market," he said.