Home sales fell back in July, says HMRC

Estate agent's window The property market is still moribund compared to activity before the start of the financial crisis

The number of homes sold in the UK fell back in July, according to figures from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

There were 81,000 completed sales last month, down from 86,000 in June and 2,000 fewer than in July last year.

However, sales so far this year have been 9% higher than in the first seven months of 2011.

Separately, the British Bankers' Association said mortgage approvals rose 10% in July, which may indicate a rise in forthcoming sales.

The BBA's members account for most mortgage lending in the UK.

A substantial minority of sales go through without a mortgage because some buyers can provide all the money from their own resources, but approvals are still a good indicator of forthcoming trends in the market.

The BBA said approvals for home buyers in July stood at 28,441, up 10% from 25,940 the month before.

Uncertain outlook

Despite this, David Dooks of the BBA said the wider picture was of people and companies still very reluctant to borrow while the economy was in recession.

"We continue to see the household sector increasing deposits and repaying debt," he said.

"Repayments of both mortgages and unsecured lending have grown strongly this year as households seek to reduce borrowing and borrowing costs.

"Companies are reluctant to borrow or invest new funds while domestic and international trading activities remain subdued or uncertain," he added.

Ashley Brown, of mortgage broker Moneysprite, said the outlook for the property market was still "unremittingly dark".

"July's mortgage approvals may have crept up since June, but the gravity is irresistible - the figure is 17% down on the same time last year, and net lending remains at negligible levels," he said.

"The underlying reason is simple - debt aversion among consumers and a lack of appetite from lenders.

"Until lenders start lending consistently at higher loan to values, the mortgage - and subsequently property - markets will go nowhere," he warned.

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