A positive monthly increase in house prices has been reported across all regions, according to Rightmove?s most recent data. A shortage of sellers coupled with an increase in demand has pushed average asking prices to over £200,000 for the first time and the amount of time a property spends on the market has dropped sharply.

The National Association of Estate Agent?s (NAEA) latest figures paint an equally optimistic picture. NAEA President Christopher Hall said: ?Buyer optimism combined with seller realism has led to encouraging sales levels. Assuming interest rates and employment levels remain the same for the time being we can expect a continuation of this positive trend.?

 

But stock levels are dilapidated according to both organisations. The amount of property on the market usually rises in January as new sellers come onto the market after Christmas, ready for rising demand in spring. In spite of the highest level of new instructions ever recorded on Rightmove, the six month downward trend of average properties for sale per estate agency branch continued last month. From a high of 72 in August 2005, it now stands at 61. The NAEA figures support this trend. The number of properties on agents? books fell 6.9%, from 72 to 67 per agent.

 

Meanwhile, what property there is on the market, is ?flying off the shelves? according to Rightmove. A house is now spending an average of 81 days on the market rather than 94. Miles Shipside, Commercial Director of Rightmove comments: ?The market?s picked up quickly this year. As a result, properties are selling more quickly and stock levels are declining.? The NAEA figures, though less inflated, also show that the time taken to sell a property has reduced – from 18.4 weeks to 18.1 weeks. But the group still notes a degree of caution in the market, with the number of viewings before a sale increasing from 11 to 12.

 

Rightmove has recorded prices rises in all types of property. The largest increases have been noted at lower end of the market as the recovery is driven by growing demand for terraces and flats and increasing numbers of first time buyers. ?Buyers are back, particularly at the lower end of the market. We believe this will lead to further sales as successful sellers move up the property ladder,? says Mr. Shipside.

 

But sensible pricing is still the key to the market?s continued recovery. Mr. Shipside reminds sellers to avoid ambitious pricing: ?The recovery could run out of steam as affordability is over-stretched again,? he said. The NAEA suggests that both buyers and sellers benefited from sensible pricing in January. ?The percentage difference between asking price and sale price dropped from 4.0% in December to 3.7% in January,? explains NAEA President Christopher Hall, ?Realistic pricing gives shrewd homeowners a huge advantage over those who try to squeeze as much as possible out of sellers and we continue to advise them to employ this more cautious strategy.?

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