House buyers encouraged by sunny weather, says Rics

Beach huts April produced some of the warmest temperatures on record in the UK for that month

Good weather in April led to an increased number of viewings from potential UK house buyers, according to surveyors.

But difficulty in securing a mortgage hindered many of these potential buyers, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said.

Only the "cash-rich" were able to take advantage of lower prices, it added.

Surveyors who expect house prices to fall in the next three months outnumber those expecting values to rise.

Activity 'still subdued'

Spring is traditionally a busier time of year for the housing market, although lower prices also attracted some people to look around homes.

Sales, as well as supply and demand of properties, all edged up in April, the Rics report said.

But this was only from a relatively low base, according to Rics housing spokesman Michael Newey.

"The return of sellers to the market is positive, but activity still remains subdued and it is difficult to see it picking up materially over the coming months," he said.

"Although there are signs that some lenders may be reducing their grip on the purse strings, in particular with mortgages aimed at first-time buyers, there is still a long way to go before lending levels increase enough to have any real impact.

"Economic uncertainty may also continue to weigh on sentiment for a while to come."

Downward trend

The housing market showed little activity at the start of the year, with many potential sellers not being forced to sell because of low interest rates, and buyers required to raise high deposits.

Recent surveys have shown a trend of falling prices. The Land Registry said prices were 2.3% lower in March than a year earlier, and the Halifax said prices had dropped 3.7% year-on-year in April.

The Nationwide Building Society said prices were static in the last six months, and could "drift" during the rest of 2011.

However, the warm weather and back-to-back bank holidays did provide a boost for the shops.

Retail sales jumped 5.2% in April, reversing a 3.5% fall the previous month, according to a survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

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