By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies to enhance your experience.
Written by rosalind renshaw

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%.


  • icon

    Chris - A fine argument, apart from the fact that all the major indices seasonally adjust their data to take into account what you are saying. And recent data even then suggests house prices are still falling.

    • 18 March 2011 11:16 AM
  • icon

    Timmy P.
    If you look back, (With the exception of the boom years) you will see that house prices tend to dip during November, December, January & Febuary, and this is no different this year. The Spring Bounce gets it's name for a reason. I am quite optimistic that we will see things pick up again in the next 6-weeks and when it does, the media will report that sales are back up/ average sale prices up too and this will fuel the fence sitters worried that they may miss out, fueling more sales and the cycle continues until the school summer holidays begin in July, when things quiet down until September when things pick up for 2-months again. This is the traditional cycle and I see no reason why this shouldn't happen again this year.

    I accept that inflation is up slightly, but we are only talking about 4%, not the 10%+ we saw in the late 80's.
    The economy is still growing, albeit slowly, interest rates are at an historical low, buy-to-let investors are taking advantage of low house prices and a large number of tenants looking for accommodation. Here in Peterborough, the Council has 8700 families looking for housing!

    There are simply not enough new houses being built and as soon as the lending criteria is improved allowing tenants to get on the ladder, many will jump at the chance, especially if they see house prices creeping up.

    A few years from now, we will look back at this period and be thankful it is all behind us. With any luck houses will still be seen as a fair long term investment for home owners and prices will rise in line with inflation.

    Ultimately the English would rather own than rent and all this pent-up demand will one day be released pushing demand and house prices back up again as long as the lending is available. For now though, agents are just topping up their stock in readiness for the Spring Bounnce, but accept that when these properties receive little interest, they will be talking to the vendors about getting the price down. We sold one bungalow today for £200k with an asking price of £225k, demonstrating that vendors can be resonable when the chips are down, but we did tell him it was only worth around that when it went on the market, but agreed to try for more for a few months.

    • 18 March 2011 00:37 AM
  • icon

    RE "Sales fall – but things look up for housing market"

    Sales fall, house prices continue to fall. They will be a lot lower next year. All the wage cuts are starting to happen now, inflation high, money in your wallet is now looking more short.

    • 17 March 2011 19:42 PM
  • icon

    FFS - On one hand, you could say the vendor missed the 2007 boat for a high sale price.

    On the other, you could say that buyers missed the boat for dirt cheap deals at the end/start of the 2000s.

    We are crawling out of a recession. Comparing todays proeprty market to the highs of 2007 is going to lead in one answer - activity is lower - just like MOST markets. You don't need to panic and act just because activity is lower- only idiots do that.

    However, houses are still selling - 50,000 per month and more and more people are ready to commit to a mortgage.

    More and more mortgage options are coming onto the market now, too.

    You seem like one of those 'panic types' - chillax.

    • 17 March 2011 15:00 PM
  • icon

    F F-S: WOW! I'm a d*psh*t; an utter dunderhead, and dumb - all in the space of 24 hours! Seems like this isn't shaping up to be a good day for me - and maybe I should have stayed in bed...

    NAH! I'm having too much fun (on an emotional level, naturally...). I trust you were quoting your usual monthly vendor pep-talk there, were you? It seemed to flow so naturally - you must have hundreds of them all stacked up waiting impatiently for the monthly buyer. "Come on, folks - best reduction of the month gets the ONLY bite of the ONLY cherry..."

    Boy - wouldn't I just love to be on your books!

    REALITY: IF a property is on your books, it is because you or someone else in your organisation listed it there. Therefore, the price is YOUR problem - take ownership of it.

    REALITY: Vendors are greedy animals.

    REALITY: Purchasers are equally greedy animals.

    REALITY: IF YOU allowed a vendor to test the water, then accept that. You should have agreed an action plan with the vendor - and if the vendor then goes back on the plan, you disinstruct yourself.

    REALITY: IF YOU simply overvalued - for WHATEVER REASON - then your (and your vendors') mutual problem is of your own making. You CANNOT blame the vendor in this circumstance - for it is YOU that created the 'fantasy' in the first place. YOU told the kiddie there was a Santa Claus - now YOU break the bad news to them before someone else does, and you lose the trust completely (...but of course, you already have lost it...).

    REALITY: It is NO WONDER that the likes of RR believe that crackpot cures for the market exist if you fall into the category of the latter Agent, F-S.

    REALITY: DON'T get snotty with the dumb vendor. Is he dumb - or misled? REGARDLESS of the answer... selling his/her/their property keeps you in a job.

    Do the best you can for him/her/them. It is your obligation.

    • 17 March 2011 13:56 PM
  • icon

    I don't understand the vendors who go with Agents that slash their fee's to win an instruction. Surely that must point out that they suck at negotiating?

    • 17 March 2011 13:53 PM
  • icon

    Too many rubbish agents list at any price for any fee, I find it strange the public don’t see such awful “negotiations” and reflect if they want that agent selling what is for most, their biggest asset.

    Stack em high and hope, pathetic and no servcie to vendors who then never sell.

    • 17 March 2011 13:44 PM
  • icon


    That kind of attitude may help you blow off some steam in your frustration at not selling your house.

    But it won't help you sell your house.

    Fantasy prices are in my view now THE major blocker to market recover (ie, return to a functioning market with reasonable transaction volues). (That and cowardly, yes-men agents willing to put houses on at prices that will never sell, just to get them on the books).

    We can't conjure willing buyers from nowhere, they are increasingly sophisticated (due to internet use as much as anything) and can't be duped as in the past to paying over the odds, not least when sentiment is down, down down as it is at the moment (except for a few blinkered vendors of course).

    It's vendors like you that need to get with the plot. The market should be a win-win-win situation but all too often delusional vendors living in the past (more even than banks' willingness to lend) are what's causing its malfunction.

    Get used to the fact that you missed the boat in 2007 and your house just aint worth what, in a fleeting period, it might once have been, should you have had the foresight to sell it in that brief window.

    Shooting the messenger may be fun on an emotional level but in reality it's a pretty dumb thing to do.

    • 17 March 2011 12:54 PM
  • icon

    Everyone seems to ignore that these are “averages”, so some will be doing worse and some better.
    The better agents are selling more and getting stronger, the weak, or perhaps more correctly poor, are doing considerably worse.
    Doing the job right has never paid better rewards than now, this market will cull the rubbish that over price, charge stupidly cheap fees, about time to! They will also be the ones that abuse all regulations, money laundering, data protection etc and whinge about it all rather than do it!
    And perhaps see the end finally of the useless NAEA because quality agents just don’t need it.

    • 17 March 2011 12:23 PM
  • icon

    F F-S:
    "If we are going to manage a spring bounce this year - and god help us if we don't - then it needs to be in VOLUME not PRICE. Can we get that into vendors' thick skulls?"

    Mr Fortescue-Smythe, I WELCOME you coming to visit THIS thick-skulled vendor, to hammer home to me the fact that YOU NEED ME to reduce my price so that you can get your numbers up.

    That kind of self-serving attitude belongs with car salesmen, NOT Estate Agents. You, for all I know, may own your own Agency. You may even be the CEO of a Corporate. But let me point out one of the rules of life you have ignored or failed to learn:

    EVERY VENDOR PAYS YOUR WAGES! Without them, you have nothing...

    I respectfully suggest you WORK for those who keep you employed!

    • 17 March 2011 10:20 AM
  • icon

    We are seeing an increase in mortgage applications too but no more than you'd expect as Winter turns to Spring.I didn't mention it because in the big picture it doesn't really amount to our salvation.

    On current form it doesn't take a genius to work out how many of those applications will be turned down for all sort of reasons. Not least the sale being thrown out because of survey well below asking price.

    What I'm saying is, as we go into the peak buying season, without a drop in prices, any improvement we see won't amount to much. Better than last year, certainly but we are still on tiny fractions of the volume we used to shift.

    I just can't see this changing without a major market realignment in asking prices.

    • 17 March 2011 09:56 AM
  • icon

    RnR - There is a 40% increase in people who want (and are ready to commit) to purchasing a house at the current market values.

    I know of people who fall into this bracket and the demands from some banks, in terms of deposits, is delaying people's amibtion and readiness in a harsh way.

    I suppose you will fight tooth and nail on this one as these statistics show that not all FTBs think along the lines of HPC'ers. These applicants and the 50,000 buyers per month aren't in agreement of your claims for the current market.

    In fact, of all the 'HPC' followers, if you took out the ones who just want a cheap house because it would be awesome, you wouldn't be left with much of a 'genuine' following.

    Have a nice evening and let's see if Torres can net tonight....talk about over-priced!

    • 16 March 2011 17:30 PM
  • icon

    AoS - that 40% rise in applications should just soak up the 40% rise in new properties coming to market... except that a mortgage application is exactly that - an application. How many people are applying for such a loan and being turned down at the moment?

    • 16 March 2011 14:54 PM
  • icon

    FFS - Not got time for a full on debate today, but I can't help but note that you missed out the rise in Mortgage applications in your brief summary - which shows an increase in people wanting to buy in this current market.

    "Countrywide’s 650 mortgage consultants handled a 40% increase in mortgage applications during February"

    I guarantee you that this is not just the case for CW, but for many more agents far and wide.

    • 16 March 2011 14:24 PM
  • icon

    Hmmm, this does seem to only be talking about Coutrywide's figures so (knowing some of tghe Countrywide offices around me) I'm not too concerned about the 'rising' asking prices issue. Mainly as the ones near me have a bit of a reputation for overvaluing.

    If these figures were representing the whole market, then I would assume that the buyers and finance seems to br improving, it is managing the vendors expectations that we need to do now. Unfortunately motivated vendors are now needing to look at being more flexible on accepting offers.

    I'm finding some of mine aren't willing to readjust asking prices as they are expecting to buyers to come in with 10-15% decrease on offers, so they are sitting on the market for longer.

    Overall, a not entirely depressing arcticle though!

    • 16 March 2011 10:51 AM
  • icon

    Hmmm .... not to rain on anyone's parade, but the continuing rising trend in asking prices seems like lunacy in a market where:

    - new instructions are 40% higher than last year (= big increase in supply)
    - sales are down 7% on last February (continuing fall in demand, from a low base)
    - 76% of properties have been reduced in price (by not enough to make much difference, but still ...)
    - annual and three month SOLD prices are down

    If we are going to manage a spring bounce this year - and god help us if we don't - then it needs to be in VOLUME not PRICE. Can we get that into vendors' thick skulls?

    Rising supply is one driver of this; greater mortgage availability will be too (how is the true market price to be established if there are no proceedable offers?). But the third leg in the market recovery (in terms of volume) has to be a return to sensible prices.

    • 16 March 2011 10:41 AM
MovePal MovePal MovePal