Falling mortgage rates help house sales hit two-and-a-half year high

House sales have hit a two-and-a-half year high according to new figures from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

In its latest House Market Survey, RICS said that February saw an uplift in house sales thanks to increasing market stability in recent months.  It also said that improving access to mortgage deals, as a result of the Government’s Funding for Lending scheme, “may be slowly encouraging would-be buyers to test the market.”

The survey, which polls estate agents and surveyors from around the country, found that surveyors were cautiously optimistic about the housing market and they expect prices to “continue to stabilise over the coming three months as confidence gradually returns.”

This sentiment was backed up by new figures released today by the Council of Mortgages Lenders (CML).  It said that a total of 38,300 loans were advanced to home buyers in January; marking the best start to a year since 2008 when 47,800 loans were advanced.   The number of loans advanced to first-time buyers was up by 24% compared to January last year.

According to the latest Halifax house price index, the improving mortgage market appears to be feeding through to house prices.  The lender's latest figures showed that prices in the three months to February were 1.9% higher than in the previous three months.  It says that house sales are continuing a modest upward trend and it expects to see, “a national increase in house prices over the course of 2013”

Second steppers still struggling

While the market is showing these recent signs of improvement, new research from Lloyds Banking Group has found that what it calls ‘second steppers’ – people looking to sell their first home and take the second step on the housing ladder – are still struggling to move home. 

Almost two thirds of second steppers (61%) wanted to move up the ladder in 2012 but were unable to as they face an increasing number of challenges – the main ones being a struggle to raise a sufficient deposit and a lack of affordable housing to move into.

On the plus side, around half of all respondents thought the mortgage market has improved over the past year – and conditions have continued to improve since this research was conducted.  This along with an improving housing market and growing number of first time buyers will hopefully combine to help second-steppers make the move in 2013.

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