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House prices slipped before coronavirus hit

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The average UK house price in January was £231,000 – down 0.4 per cent from December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figure was £3,000 or 1.3 per cent higher than January 2019, but the movements illustrate the continued uncertainty and sluggishness in the housing market.

It also suggests the boost from the December General Election result may not have been as strong as many in the property sector believed at the time.

Average house prices in England rose to £247,000 – up 1.1 per cent over the year, in Wales it was £162,000 – up 2.0 per cent, Scotland saw a rise of 1 .6 per cent to £152,000, and Northern Ireland was up 2.5 per cent to £140,000.

Coronavirus hit

The figures have, however, been taken over by the far more significant impact of the coronavirus.

While this has been immediate, it is hoped the effect will not be too detrimental on prices and activity will resume quickly once it is possible.

Jeremy Leaf, north London estate agent, noted that while viewings had dried up, enquiries had not.

“Many, already fed-up with enforced confinement, are clearly hoping to move in the short rather than the longer term,” he said.

“If that is the case, we don’t expect prices to suffer too badly if the current shortage of listings continues and government assistance keeps as many in work as possible.”

Benham and Reeves director Marc von Grundherr added that buyer and seller sentiment remained, but they are just unable to transact as normal.

“So with both demand and supply reducing instead of just demand, prices aren’t going to take the same sort of hit,” he said.

“What it does mean, is that the housing market spring continues to coil once again, waiting for the day we can resume normality and for the floodgates of market activity to reopen.”

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