New record for asking prices

Property coming to market this month has set a new record national average asking price, according to the latest Rightmove House Price Index.

This month’s 2.1% (+£5,135) rise has left the national average just shy of a quarter of a million pounds at £249,841, surpassing the previous high by £3,606. London, the South East and East Anglia have also hit all-time highs, with buyers in the capital facing new sellers’ average asking prices in excess of £500,000 for the first time.

Rightmove said: “The tumbling of records is being driven by the equity-rich generation with a definite southern bias, though agents in most parts of the country are reporting strong demand for well-priced and decent-quality stock. Despite a new national record, it’s not ‘green-shoots of recovery’ across the board, especially for the deposit-strapped mass-market. They must wait patiently until January when the Help to Buy scheme extends to the resale market, unless new homes developers can increase building dramatically this year.”

The average price of property coming to market has risen by 9.1% (+£20,852) so far in 2013, the strongest start to a year since the 10.5% recorded in 2004. This is the fifth monthly rise in a row, with all regions in positive territory this month. However, sellers in two northern regions, Yorkshire & Humberside and the East Midlands, are still unable to come to market at higher prices than this time last year.

With London sprinting past the £500,000 milestone for the first time with a 3.1% monthly rise to £509,870, a typical home in the capital is more than twice as expensive as the national average. Outside London and some southern hotspots agents report that the market remains sensitive to price and quality, with buyers willing to take their time to find their ideal home.

Rightmove said: “The recession appears to have precipitated a change in buyer behaviour which has left them more choosy and less willing to settle for second-best. Not only are they looking for value and wary of paying over the odds, prospective buyers are also giving thought to ease of resale, a sign that the pain of this financial crisis has left them more mindful of the liquidity of their assets.”

Lenders are ‘cherry-picking’ in efforts to improve the quality of their future mortgage book by offering some tantalisingly cheap mortgage rates to those with decent deposits, courtesy of the Funding for Lending Scheme. There are fixed rates from 2.34% with a minimum 25% deposit, and even interest only options at 2.19% for those with a 50% deposit of at least £300,000 to put down.

The availability of cheap money is key to driving positive sentiment and, with 84% of respondents to Rightmove’s latest Consumer Confidence Survey stating that they felt prices would be the same or higher in 12 months’ time, this seems to be feeding through to home-movers. However, the pent-up demand is still being frustrated by the restricted supply of fresh property.