Buyers on books, houses available and sales agreed all took a tumble in October, according to the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA), as the market cooled earlier than usual before Christmas.

The number of house buyers on estate agents’ books averaged out at 282, compared with 326 in September, said the report indicating a tightening of belts as a result of the housing market cooldown. Prospective purchasers are putting existing buying and selling ambitions on hold as the present cautionary atmosphere persists, the NAEA found.

First time buyers are slightly more confident, however, and increased their share of the market between September and October, and should continue to do so in coming months, as the market remains relatively cool.

Stewart Lily, President of NAEA said: ‘The marketplace at present is experiencing a seasonal slowdown, which you would normally expect at this time of year.

‘All consumers need a period of stability in order to build up their confidence. We are pleased to see that the Bank of England has suggested it will be lowering interest rates over the coming months, which should go some way to restoring confidence.’

Following Yvette Cooper’s announcement that HIPs are to be rolled out to all sizes of property by December 14, Mr Lily commented: ‘The CLG highlighted the benefits it imagines there will be for first time buyers. But what about first time sellers? They are already faced with huge expenses as they trade up, most notably surrounding stamp duty. The cost of a HIP on top of this is an unfair and unnecessary extra. The other point to consider is that if first time sellers stay out of the market reducing the supply of more affordable properties available, then the situation will be even worse for first time buyers than it is at the moment.

‘A small ray of light is the decision to extend first day marketing until 1 June 2008. This will allow some breathing space for the market, but is in no way a solution to any part of the HIPs fiasco.

‘The incompetence and irresponsibility of the government over HIPs seems to know no limits. Why can’t they admit they got it wrong and let us work with them to get things right?’