House prices fall while sales rise

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By Lauren Crooks

FALLING Scots property prices have sparked a surge in people looking to bag new homes at bargain prices.

While actual prices have fallen 4.3 per cent in recent months sales themselves have risen by around the same at 4.2 per cent.

The drop in house price across February, March and April affected some areas more than others.

Dundee was hit worst, with a drop in prices of 17.5 per cent, while the north of Scotland (excluding Aberdeen) fell by 16 per cent.

The south-east and south-west were best off – but still had a fall of 1.4 and 2.5 per cent respectively.

And the house price monitor has reported that Scottish house prices have now fallen by 2.1 per cent in a year.

But some savvy buyers are using the slump as the perfect opportunity to bag themselves a bargain – with rises in house sales in both March and April.

Economy experts say it is the first signs of the return of consumer confidence.

Professor Donald MacRae, chief economist, at Lloyds TSB Scotland, said: “The Scottish economy is now firmly in recession. Consumer confidence has fallen and claimant unemployment has risen.

“However, there is evidence of consumer confidence marginally improving while retail sales continue to increase on an annual basis.

“The cost of borrowing has reduced for many mortgage holders while there has been a slow but perceptible increase in the level of mortgage availability for first time buyers.

“The Scottish housing market continues to adjust to changing circumstances with reduced sales, lower prices, but no precipitous collapse.”

Estate agents throughout the country have also noticed a difference.

Scott Brown, estate agency partner at Warners in Edinburgh, said that this increase in sales showed that the property market was showing encouraging signs of resilience, despite the ongoing recession.

He said: “In recent weeks we have started to see the number of sales rise again, which is a very encouraging sign.

“Some individual firms have carried out 13 property sales each in just one week – the best figure so far this year.”

And Angus Macpherson, partner at ELPG member firm Drummond Miller, adds that although the housing market is still being affected by the ongoing recession, it remains a good time for house hunters to search for a bargain.

He added: “No-one is saying that everything is rosy in the property market.

“After all, sales are still significantly down from their levels in 2007 and house prices have fallen over the last year or so, so there is still a long way to go before we see a full recovery.

“However, there is still a lot of good news out there for buyers and sellers.

“A recent report by the Bank of Scotland has suggested that property is now more affordable for first-time buyers and, as the Chancellor has extended the Stamp Duty freeze on properties worth below £175,000, the conditions are now perfect for buying a new home for a bargain price.

“Sellers are also finding that, as long as they are realistic about the price they want for their homes, they are able to sell up and make their next move along the property ladder.

“The fact that we are seeing weekly sales in double figures at some ELPG firms is a clear sign that there is still high demand for property in Edinburgh and the Lothians, and that the market has not ground to a halt.

“House prices are already levelling out and investors are entering the market, so it will only be a matter of time before we see the first signs of a recovery.”

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