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Green light

After the derision heaped on a Treasury minister who dared to utter the phrase “green shoots”, I am only too well aware of the dangers that those words carry in the current climate.

The recession ( or is it a depression) may be something that many of us have no previous experience of but we can look at the history books and learn that economic fortunes have always been cyclical, with bad times following good and a certainty that good will ultimately follow bad.

As such, the economy demonstrates that it is as much a part of nature as nature itself. During the coldest winter for many years, we all know with certainty that we will soon be able to witness the first snowdrops.

The flower beds are already showing the first signs that the daffodil bulbs from last year are once again bursting into life – the green shoots of nature.

Calling the bottom of the economic cycle is always difficult, as any trader will testify, but perhaps we can see signs that the housing market is edging through the lower points of the cycle. Will the coming months see greater numbers of sales, will we see rising numbers of mortgage deals being transacted?

As always, some of the key statistics are not readily available and while in the downturn of the 1990s, there was a lot of comment as to the numbers of house-owners in negative equity, this figure is not being reported on in the current market.

We know that lending levels were at an all-time high and we also know that the prices achieved have fallen significantly. Put these two factors together and there must be many who are feeling the pain – but that pain is only really apparent when the property is sold or when the lender seeks to revalue the property for mortgage purposes.

Political pressure is being exerted on lenders not to precipitate a problem and there is a lot of evidence that most borrowers are responding sensibly to the new economic conditions. If there is a problem, it is being hidden from view.

The fall in prices has dealt to some extent with the issues of affordability, buyers will come back into the market as and when their confidence in their own financial position recovers and when they feel confidence in their own employment prospects.

Some commentators are suggesting that now is a good time to buy. It will only take a few warm days for those very small green shoots to thrive. When that time arrives, we will see the fortunes of mortgage advisers recovering.

Richard Fox is chief executive of the Society of Mortgage Professionals

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