House sales slump in east of England

House sales in the east of England fell at the end of last year and the outlook for 2011 is mixed, according to the latest figures from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

In the three months to December the average number of completed sales per surveyor fell to 10 from 11, representing the lowest level in the UK.

The outlook was more positive in the East Midlands, with an average of 19, and Yorkshire and the Humber at 18.

The RICS puts the drop down to adverse weather, economic uncertainty for some buyers and the lack of available mortgage finance.

The figures come from the latest survey of surveyors, which shows that expectations for sales over the coming months are bleak.

Slightly more surveyors expected sales to fall rather than rise.

Lack of supply to the market also continued to be an issue in the region as people waited until the New Year to put their property on the market, and new buyer enquiries have fallen consecutively for a year.

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Surveyors report that lending constraints, particularly for first-time buyers, remains the biggest barrier to any improvement in the market.

David Potter, RICS operations director, said: 'Although bad weather hit the east of England's housing market during December, sales levels have remained stable, albeit at low levels.

'The key issue now is mortgage finance. However, with commentators suggesting lending constraints are unlikely to be eased, it is hard to envisage a meaningful increase in sales levels in the near term.'

Charlie Penrose, from Arnolds Property Consultants in Norwich, said: 'It is difficult to predict what 2011 may bring based on micro analysis of the last month, since the extreme weather and natural seasonal decline have somewhat disrupted the 'feel' for the underlying trend.'

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