Housing market ‘recovering but still fragile’

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There is cautious optimism in the housing market with official figures showing prices rising and estate agents saying there are more buyers and more properties for sale.

Nationally the latest figures from the Land Registry of England and Wales, which cover April to June, show prices rising by 5.2 per cent for the quarter, up 4.6 per cent on the year. This means the average price of a home is now £238,638.

Charles Orlebar

Charles Orlebar

The picture is more mixed locally. Corby has seen a jump of 18.8 per cent in prices in April to June compared to the previous quarter, with the average house price now £139,723.

Wellingborough, though, has seen a fall of minus 1.7 per cent in the quarter, although prices are up 1.2 per cent on the year, bringing the average house price to £159,598. Prices in Kettering rose a healthy 8.3 per cent in the quarter but are still 2.4 per cent lower than last year. The average house now costs £159,002.

A note of caution must be added as the figures are based on a fairly low number of sales. There were 291 transactions in Kettering in April to June, 198 in Wellingborough and 203 in Corby.

Kelly Bryan is the branch manager at Connells in Rushden. She said: “Obviously there have been peaks and troughs over the years but we’ve had a fantastic September.

Kelly Bryan of Connells, Rushden

Kelly Bryan of Connells, Rushden

“We’re only a few days into October, but so far it has been really good.

“If you market a property well initially and get an accurate, realistic market appraisal so you ask the right price you can sell any property.”

Things are busy for estate agents in Kettering, too. Chris Dunbar, of Your Move Hobin Roberts in Kettering, said: “We’re been massively busy and have sold eight houses in six days. The time of the year helps, people want to get moved in before Christmas.

“The market has improved throughout the year and we are going out to two or three valuations a week.”

Charles Orlebar, whose estate agency has branches in Higham Ferrers and Rushden, is the Northamptonshire spokesman for the National Association of Estate Agents. He said: “It is an interesting period. We have been through a period of turnover when a lot of houses have been sold, now the momentum has died off slightly, but prices are stable.

“The Olympics were a distraction, they took the urgency out of the market and then we had the Jubilee before that. These sound like excuses but the market is a fickle place.

“The lenders have taken a solid proportion of buyers out of the market because the multiples offered on wages are not as good as they could be.

“And potential buyers aren’t confident about applying for a mortgage.

“They have the expectation they will be turned down.

“We are having to spend a lot of time re-educating potential buyers there are mortgages available, that it is not as bad as it was.

“However, the positive side of this is that this is the third generation of buyers who have only known the market as it is.

“They expect to have to save for a deposit and have equity in their property which will make for a more stable market in the future and solid ground for secure growth to return to the housing market.

“The housing market feels as if it is over the worst, there is a recovery but it is slow and fragile.”

Average prices moving upwards

The changes in property prices which are tracked by the Land Registry for England and Wales in the period April to June show that the average price of a semi-detached property in Corby is now £120,129, a terraced property costs £101,395 and a flat £69,174.

Average prices in Wellingborough are higher, with a semi-detached property costing £138,096, a terraced housecosting £124,093 and a flat £107,162.

People who are hoping to buy a semi-detached property in Kettering will have to pay £132,742, on average, a terraced house will cost them £116,160, and a flat will cost them on average £83,852.

Incredulous owner sells house in hours

Selling a house doesn’t have to be a long drawn-out affair. Kelly Bryan, of Connells, managed to sell her client Mick Burnell’s house in Rushden within hours.

Mr Burnell said: “I had had the house valued by my solicitors for probate and didn’t think it was enough so got two estate agents round to value it and told them what I thought it was worth. Kelly was the second one to come and she told me she might have a buyer as she had just sold a lady’s house and she was looking for a property like this.

“The lady came, liked what she saw, brought her husband round the next day and made an offer just £2,000 lower than the asking price.

“Absolutely incredible.”

Government called upon to act

The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) is calling for Government action to boost the housing market.

It wants housing minister Mark Prisk to make it easier for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder, and less expensive for homeowners to move.

NAEA president Mark Hayward said: “The underlying issue of lack of adequate funding mechanisms is still the stumbling block, preventing many prospective homeowners from getting onto the property ladder. This is a situation we have been striving to encourage the Government to change for far too long.

Concerns among potential buyers about job security, the size of deposits required and prohibitive levels of Stamp Duty mean that overall levels of home ownership are at their lowest rates for 20 years.”

They want the Government to reform Stamp Duty, provide help for first time buyers by increasing the annual limit for ISAs and set up a Government-backed saving scheme, build more homes and work with lenders to make sure lending criteria is more appropriate.