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House prices edged up in September by 0.1 per cent, according to Nationwide, but experts are predicting stalemate as sellers test the water and mortgage funding remains hard to come by. Nationwide says prices for the past three months, generally a clearer indicator of trends, were lower than the previous three months. It is the first time since May 2009 that prices have fallen by this measure.

It follows the Land Registry report for August which showed annual inflation slowing from 6.8 per cent to 6.7 per cent but a 0.3 per cent rise in prices.

It is a mixed picture. On the down side, Barclays president Bob Diamond predicts funding, which the banks need to lend money, will be scarcer and probably more expensive. This is likely to have a knock-on impact on the number of loans granted and interest rates charged, particularly among smaller lenders.

Figures from the Bank of England show the number of mortgages given out continues to shrivel, with lenders being unwilling to lend without a big deposit and people being too scared to buy, fearing price falls and unemployment. Only 47,372 people got a house purchase loan in August, the fourth consecutive monthly fall and the lowest figure since May last year.

The Building Societies Association has predicted that the number of interest-only mortgages could plunge if the FSA’s proposed mortgage rules are introduced.

I have for some time been saying our culture of buying our own home, with it being our biggest financial asset, is likely to change over time, so I was not surprised to hear that the Council of Mortgage Lenders warn recently that “the golden age of homeownership is over, for the moment”.

We need to change and adapt. It is how we react to this that matters. We need to be more proactive, creative and take action.

The rental sector is a great example. It is seeing a revival and this trend is set to continue. There are lots of investors and brokers making money in this area. They took action and it is paying off. It is great news that Paragon, a key buy-to-let mortgage lender, has returned, having managed its back book through the credit crunch and now secured new funding.

More than half of middle-class parents believe their children will not be able to step into the property market without their help. Findings from a National Housing Federation survey suggest 60 per cent with children between 20 and 30 said they would need to provide a cash handout. A potential opportunity, I wonder?

<B>Sally Laker is managing director of Mortgage Intelligence and Mortgage Next

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