Agents see surge in house-hunters


Estate agents saw house-hunter numbers surge to their highest level in more than five years last month, boosting hopes that 2013 will be a "better year" for the market.

Some 314 would-be buyers on average registered with an agent in January, marking the highest number seen since September 2007, the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) said.

The NAEA said the year has also started strongly for first-time buyer sales, with one quarter (25%) of sales last month made to this group, marking a two-year high.
On average, seven sales were agreed per branch in January, up from five in December, while the typical number of homes on the market decreased slightly month-on-month to 56 per branch as demand strengthened.

Meanwhile, Land Registry figures showed that house prices jumped by 1% month-on-month in January across England and Wales to reach £162,441 on average.
Prices are also 1% higher than they were a year ago and continuing a trend, they increased at their fastest rate in London, where at £373,207 on average, prices are 7.1% above what they were a year ago.

By contrast, house prices in the North West are 4.2% down year-on-year, at £106,527 typically. House prices in Wales are 0.9% higher year-on-year, at £116,545 on average.

Signs of an improvement in the market have been seen since the Government launched a scheme last August to help borrowers by giving lenders access to cheap finance.

The number of mortgages on the market has increased by around one third since the Funding for Lending scheme was introduced and there have been more recent signs that conditions for would-be first time buyers, a group which has particularly struggled since the onset of the credit crunch, are getting better.

Lenders have been slashing their rates to some of their lowest ever levels since the scheme was launched, but analysts have warned that some of these products also come with high fees, so borrowers need to weigh up which deals will work out cheapest.

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