45% expect house prices to rise

The number of people who think house prices will rise over the next 12 months is at its highest in at least two years, a survey has found.

Almost half expect prices to increase (45%) while just one in eight forecast declines (12%), according to the research by Halifax, conducted in the same week the Government unveiled measures designed to boost the housing market.

The latest findings show the strongest overall sentiment that house prices will increase since the quarterly study began in April 2011, and they add to a string of recent reports pointing to signs of optimism creeping back into the market.

House prices are predicted to increase in all regions of Britain over the next year. Expectations are strongest in London, the survey shows, where much of the market has performed well despite the economic crisis, thanks to high demand from wealthy overseas buyers looking for a "safe haven" to keep their cash.

People in the South East and the East of England are also particularly likely to predict price rises in their area, while those living in Wales are the least optimistic, according to Halifax.

In last month's Budget the Government announced a multibillion-pound scheme called Help to Buy, aimed at helping more people get on the property ladder, or move up it, with a deposit as low as 5%.

The scheme is being introduced in two stages, with the equity loan part of it already under way. The second part, to be launched next year, sees the Government guaranteeing lenders £130 billion-worth of low-deposit mortgages on new or existing homes worth up to £600,000.

Despite the general feeling that house prices will rise, Halifax said its research suggests that sales will still be "subdued" this year.

It found that just one in six people believe it is a good time to both buy and sell a home.

Concerns about job security have remained at the same high levels that Halifax recorded three months ago, with three-fifths of those surveyed (58%) citing worries about jobs as a barrier to buying property.

Martin Ellis, a housing economist at Halifax, said: "There has been much more optimism about the prospects for the housing market over the past few months, particularly as the recent UK Budget announced big plans for housing."

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