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House prices flat in January, says Hometrack

Small rise in London prices offsets declines in other regions, after falls of 0.2% nationally in November and December

Britain’s housing market got off to a slow start to the year as the usual seasonal slowdown was exacerbated by weak consumer confidence.

House prices were flat in January, after falls of 0.2% in November and December, according to a survey of 1,500 estate agents and surveyors by the property analysis firm Hometrack. Nationally, prices have not risen month-on-month for a year and a half.

A small rise in London prices offset falls in other regions in January. The trend looks set to continue through 2012 as the Olympics focus the eyes of the world on London, and overseas buyers looking for a safe haven continue to snap up luxury pads.

Concerns over the economic outlook and eurozone crisis resulted in an 11% drop in demand over the second half of last year, and a 23% decline in buyers registering with agents between August and January. The number of homes for sale fell by 7% in the period, the biggest decline since 2009. Southern England, excluding London, saw the biggest decline in demand. A property now stays on the market for just under three months in the north and Midlands, and 9.1 weeks in the south, the highest level for almost three years. In London, the figure has fallen to 6.5 weeks.

Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said it was a market “dogged by uncertainy”.

“London looks set to buck the national trend again in 2012 thanks to overseas buyers providing a boost to prices in London’s prime areas,” he said. “Elsewhere demand remains constrained by the uncertain economic outlook. Some agents have also reported an increase in down-valuations as surveyors exercise growing caution.”

The cities with the fastest-moving markets included Guildford (5.2 weeks), Bristol (5.9) and Milton Keynes (5.9). At the end of the spectrum it takes more than three months to sell in locations including Stoke, Newport, Carlisle and Lincoln. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds