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Web round-up: More gloom and doom on house prices

March 16, 2009

There was more gloomy news for the housing market today as property website Rightmove announced that asking prices for houses in England and Wales were 9 percent lower than a year ago. New listings meanwhile were 57 percent lower than March 2008. The average asking price actually increased by 0.9 percent between February and March this year, but Rightmove warned that this was caused by new sellers being unrealistic about how much their homes are worth.

So what can be done to revive the stagnant housing market? Citywire has one radical suggestion: make sellers pay stamp duty rather than the buyers. Every year there are calls to abolish or reform this “flawed tax”, but Citywire’s Lorna Bourke says that making this switch would be an incentive to first-time buyers and would cost the government nothing. What sellers would say about this, however, is another story.

Citywire also comments on the recent report by Numis Securities in which they said that house prices could have another 40-55 percent to fall before bottoming out. Ouch. David Smith, writing in this weekend’s The Sunday Times, dismissed this report as “unconvincing.” Smith writes that the chances of the average house price in the UK slipping to £66,000 from the current £150,000 are slim, especially as interest in the market and new buyer inquiries are rising.

The Numis report predicting the rather frightening fall in house prices has sparked a great deal of debate on the web; it is the most commented on article on thisismoney.co.uk.

Even if you did want to buy, what are your chances of securing a mortgage? Not good, according to Rupert Jones writing in the Observer. Fewer than 9,000 first-time buyers were able to take out a home loan during January and the average first-timer’s deposit was a new high of 24 percent of the value of the property. So while buyer inquiries may indeed be on the up, raising the finance to actually buy a property is becoming harder and harder.

And it could be about to get even more difficult. Telegraph.co.uk reports that home buyers could be prevented from borrowing more than three times their annual salaries under new mortgage rules to be announced by the Financial Services Authority.

All of which raises a number of important questions about you and your home. Is it a good time to sell or buy? Would you be better off renting? What sort of mortgage should you apply for? Thankfully, there are a number of great tools on the web to help you decide.

The Times has this handy mortgage calculator to calculate what your repayments would be were you to rent or buy. Moneysavingexpert.com meanwhile has a great tool which helps you decide if you should go for a fixed, discount or tracker mortgage for those of you looking to buy or remortgage.

If you want to know how much your home could be worth but can not be bothered dealing with an estate agent, then you can search the UK Land Registry database of houses sold in England and Wales since 2000 or find out more information about properties and monitor average house prices at the Land Registry website.

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