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Economic gloom depresses August house sales

Uncertainty surrounding the economy depressed the level of property sales in August, according to the latest UK housing market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The number of sales per surveyor over the three months to August dipped slightly to an average of 14, taking transactions back to June 2009 levels.

Meanwhile, average stocks on surveyors’ books fell from 70 in July to 67 in August.

When asked why sales continue to be subdued, 79 per cent of surveyors cited economic uncertainty, and 70 per cent said a lack of mortgage finance was having a negative impact on transactions.

Furthermore, 40 per cent said that fears over house price falls were holding back both buyers and sellers.

The survey also reveals that new buyer enquiries fell back in August as 3 per cent more chartered surveyors reported a decrease rather than an increase.

Meanwhile, new instructions, which indicate supply levels to the market, moved from a net balance of -8 per cent to 0 per cent.

RICS says the sluggish market contributed to the downbeat pricing picture in August, with 23% more surveyors reporting prices fell rather than rose, compared to 22 per cent in July.

Price expectations also fell, as a net balance of 23 per cent anticipated prices to decline rather than rise over the next three months.

However, sales expectations remain positive for the coming months with a net balance of 17 per cent expecting a pick up in activity.

Alan Collett, a housing spokesman at RICS, says: “For the time being, our indicators suggest that demand for homes remains broadly steady, albeit at relatively low levels, despite the renewed bout of economic gloom.

“However, the risk is that the worsening economic picture will gradually begin to have a more material impact on sentiment and discourage potential house purchasers even where mortgage finance is available.”

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