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Property website Rightmove has released its latest house price index announcing a “Summer sale” for house buyers. The report shows that on average, house prices fell by 1% over the four weeks leading up to 9th July, indicating that the “affordability gap” between house prices and buyers ability to purchase, is at last starting to close. The price fall has been heralded as a great boost for house buyers and an indication that the fears of an expected imminent price crash may be premature.

The statistics show that the asking price demanded by sellers over the report period fell by an average of £1,993 implying that; “Sellers are now realising they have to compromise some degree of their gains in order to sell their properties,” said Miles Shipside, Commercial Director of Rightmove.

The Rightmove conclusions correspond with other reports from Halifax and the Nationwide Building Society. Halifax reported that annual house price inflation had fallen behind average earnings growth for the first time since 2001.

The new figures have lead to UK firms becoming more optimistic about the economy than they were three months ago, with companies such as Lloyds TSB expecting interest rates to be cut next month, leading to a general increase in economic confidence. However indicators show that there is a long way to go to attract many first-time-buyers (FTB).

Figures, based on mortgage value requests, released by financial comparison site Moneynet prior to last months slow down, gave the average value of a property purchase for an FTB as £206,250, up from £194,961 two months earlier, a massive jump which could not possibly have been matched by equivalent wage increases. The recent slight price drop follows a long period of huge price increases, and with house price inflation a year ago topping 18%, equivalent to an average of £29,991, it may be some time before many FTBs feel able to enter the market. A recent survey by Abbey highlights the trepidation felt by FTBs with just over a third indicating that they wanted to buy a home within the next year, but only 5% of these were actually confident that they would be able to.

National Savings and Investments (NS&I) Senior Savings Strategist Dax Harkins said: “Despite a recent cooling house market, house prices have continued to outstrip both savings rates and incomes over the last year which means potential first-time buyers need to start saving sooner and harder to get into the market.”

Rightmove believes the housing market is in for a summer where competing sellers are more likely to be flexible on prices, further improving the situation for buyers. They postulate that sellers and estate agents appear to have been brought to their senses by a painful 12 months and have belatedly taken matters into their own hands by reducing prices to a level at which increasing numbers of buyers are able to proceed. The report sounds a note of caution however, stating that, “Rises in interest rates or sellers over-optimistic expectations on price could choke off any recovery however.”

Speculation on what is in store following the summer lull remains sceptical. The Halifax predicts house prices will fall in 2005, while independent financial adviser, Julian Crooks believes, “There does seem to be a danger of negative equity so people should be preparing their finances to cope.”

“Sellers are having to work really hard to attract buyers at present,” says Richard Donnell, spokesman for estate agent FPD Savills, “there are a lot of aspirational sellers out there, who still hark back to the hot market. They need to ask their estate agent to give them a realistic valuation and ask them how they can improve their chances of a sale.”

Rightmove has warned that the housing market could remain static for several years whilst it waits for the incomes of FTBs to catch up with the housing prices. Miles Shipside, Commercial Director of Rightmove, said “As many sellers are refusing to part with gains they have made, buyers are forced to make up the affordability gap…The reality is it will take seven years of static house prices and wage inflation to bridge this affordability gap.”

The market appears to be in a state of change with sellers more open to negotiation than previously, but many buyers, especially the critical first timers remain wary or still find themselves priced out of the market.

Note: The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

References: Rightmove House Price Index Moneynet mortgage comparisons

Richard works in Edinburgh for a media company, occasionally writing for the personal finance blog Cashzilla, and drinking too much coffee.

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This Financial Services article was written by Richard Green on 8/19/2005

Property website Rightmove has released its latest house price index announcing a “Summer sale” for house buyers. The report shows that on average, house prices fell by 1% over the four weeks leading