Members of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) reported that the number of buyers on books, sales agreed and houses available rose throughout January.

Furthermore, first time buyers increased their share of the market for the fourth month running.

January saw first time buyers increase their market share with a rise from 13.0% in December to 14.5% in January. This is the highest figure recorded for first timers since October 2006 when 16.4% was reported by NAEA agents.

NAEA members across the country reported an average of 83 properties for sale in January compared with 76 in December 2007. While consumer confidence is rising some buyers are still being hesitant and with sales at a slightly lower level it may be that in a static market, some sellers are not always being realistic about the market-value of their home. This is also reflected in the fact that housing stock is comparatively up for this time of year, showing that people are still keen to move.

The number of house buyers on estate agents’ books encouragingly increased from an average of 248 registered per agent in December to 276 in January 2008. This rise may be partially attributed to the brighter outlook for buyers as interest rates are lowered and the market steadies itself after the festive period.

The January figure is still not as high as previous figures reported at the same time of the year. It does however reflect that the property market is gaining momentum after what has been a shaky end to the previous year.

The number of sales per agent increased with on average 8 sales reported per agent compared with 5 in December 2007. This figure is down on the same time last year, when 13 sales per agent were recorded. This drop may be attributed to the turbulent market in 2007 causing a lapse in consumer confidence, which in turn had a knock on effect on sales. However, with this month’s reported rise it is hoped that consumer confidence will continue to increase resulting in a stable property market for 2008.

Sales figures have been slowly falling since August 2007 and this is the first rise in four months. The figures are still not as high as they should be however it is encouraging to see that they are beginning to stabilise.

The percentage of sales agreed that fell through remained steady between December 2007 to January 2008, with figures 9.52% and 9.86% reported respectively, indicating that the individuals who are getting involved are committed to the buying process. This is also reflected in the time to taken to sell a property with an average of 21 weeks reported in January, the same as the previous month.

The difference between asking price and selling price also remained stable at 4.4%. This figure is up from the previous time last year when 2.9% was noted in January 2007. However, it is reassuring to see that this figure has stabilised with agents and homeowners continuing to set realistic prices.

NAEA President, Stewart Lilly, says: ‘It is very encouraging to see the New Year start optimistically as buyers and sellers make a welcome return back to the market. The past couple of interest rate cuts have seemed to taken effect on boosting consumer confidence and the market has started to stabilise and see a renewed sense of optimism set in.

‘What’s more, first time buyers have increased their share once again, indicating better times ahead for this sector of the market. We hope this positive trend will continue throughout the year and would hope to see a few more interest rate cuts to help boost consumer confidence, helping to strengthen the market further.

‘However, we should note that the figures are still not what they should be for this time of the year and although the first month of 2008 has been encouraging, agents are still experiencing regional differences. We hope that the market continues to stabilise over the coming year.’