There were some modest signs of improvements in the pipeline for the housing market last month, according to Countrywide, the UK’s largest property chain.
However, sales were 4% lower than in February last year.
There were more inquiries from buyers and tenants, while mortgage applications were also up in February. Property viewings increased by 40% across Countrywide’s network of 1,300 estate agency and lettings offices.
The number of sales agreed also rose 47% in February, compared with January.
Despite a marginal increase in the number of properties available to rent in February, lack of supply remained an area of concern, said Countrywide. Tenant demand jumped by 11%, compared with February of last year, but dipped slightly on January: over 19,000 new tenants registered for rental accommodation in February.
Countrywide’s 650 mortgage consultants handled a 40% increase in mortgage applications during February.
Grenville Turner, chief executive of Countrywide, said: “We are beginning to see some early signs of improvement in the property market, but whether this can be sustained against a backcloth of challenging economic conditions is difficult to determine.
“The reintroduction of competitive mortgage products is the key to turn the increase in buyer activity we’ve seen into house sales. Gathering a deposit remains a big hurdle for many would-be buyers.
“With four of the most popular mortgages applied for in February requiring a 10% deposit, this shows the level of demand for these types of mortgages and highlights the issue of affordability. With more mortgages available requiring only a 10% deposit, there are positive signs of increased lender appetite.”
Meanwhile, asking prices are rising for properties on the market.
According to property search engine Home, which gets its data from virtually all UK property websites and portals, asking prices have risen 0.4% in the last month, despite selling prices falling.
In London, asking prices bounced up 0.7% in the month.
The number of properties which had price reductions also increased, to 76,075 – 76% more than February 2010.
The number of properties new to the market last month was 40% higher than February 2010.
National surveying group Tyser Greenwood reported a 20% uplift in mortgage valuation work in the first two months of this year, compared with the same period last year. Remortgage valuations doubled and valuations for new mortgages went up by 87%.
Connells Survey and Valuation business reported a similar story, saying residential valuation activity rose 23% year on year in February, and by 53% compared with January.
*Data for January from Communities and Local Government recorded that house prices were down 1.4% on December but up 0.5% on January 2010. In the three months to January, house prices were down 0.4%.