ESTATE agents have reported a “marked” increase in house sales across Yorkshire.
A study by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors showed a significant improvement in new sales in February – with 32% more surveyors in the region reporting a rise in sales than a fall in agreed sales.
Elsewhere in the UK, surveyors in London, the South West and Scotland reported rises in agreed sales while Eastern England, East Midlands and Wales experienced particularly negative readings.
Despite the improvement in sales, surveyors in Yorkshire continued to report falling house prices – with 51% more surveyors reporting that prices fell rather than rose during February.
This is in keeping with the national picture where 26% more surveyors saw prices fall rather than rise.
Alex McNeil, of Huddersfield estate agency Bramleys said: “The housing market seems to have followed the weather in that it was awful in the quarter before Christmas when we had all that snow, but has improved since then.
“In the first two months of the year, we have had more viewings and more sales agreed – although not at prices the vendor would necessarily have wanted.”
Mr McNeil said: “It is too early to say whether this is the start of a recovery because we are starting from a very low base, but it is certainly going the right way.”
He said prices seemed to be stabilising after falling by 5.1% locally and 2.1% nationally last year – while people who had put moving house on hold over the past two or three years were now deciding to go ahead.
However, he added: “There are still very few first-time buyers – because they are renting.
They have found they can rent a nice house for £500 a month, which would cost them £800 a month on a mortgage.”
The RICS said buyer interest continued to be affected by high deposits required by lenders and fears over rising interest rates.
However, demand in Yorkshire and Humberside did improve in February. Some 6% more surveyors reported increases rather than decreases in demand for property.
Sales forecasts remain low for the next three months – with 7% more surveyors in the region predicting transactions will fall rather than rise.
This is in contrast to an improving national picture, where sales expectations look slightly stronger with a net balance of plus 12%.
RICS housing spokesman Jeremy Leaf said: “Despite the increase in sales across Yorkshire and Humberside, the general mood is still rather downbeat.
“Sales expectations are still very flat and the low level of buyer demand would indicate that prices may well continue to edge downwards over the coming months.
“While this picture generally reflects the national average, it is still a fairly pessimistic outlook.
“Rather ominously, we have yet to feel the full impact of the public spending cuts and this is likely to lead to further divergence in the regional property market.”