LONDON — e prices in England and Wales fell last month at their slowest pace since July, after London became the first region to report higher prices in seven months, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said on Tuesday. RICS’s February seasonally adjusted house price balance rose to -26 from -31, indicating a 26 percentage point difference between the proportion of surveyors who saw prices fall and the proportion who saw a rise in the UK market— marginally higher than economists’ forecasts of a reading of -27. However, most surveyors reported that prices remained unchanged, and those that did report price falls typically said declines were in a 0-2 percent range, RICS said. In London, 14 percent more surveyors reported rising prices than falling ones — in sharp contrast to Wales, the worst performing region, where there was a balance of -58.
July was the last time a region in England and Wales reported price growth, though prices in Scotland — which are not included in the main index — were rising until September. “Despite the more positive picture for some parts of the UK, the general mood is still a little flat,” said RICS spokesman Jeremy Leaf.
“Rather ominously, we have probably yet to feel the full impact of the public spending cuts which are likely to lead to further divergence in the regional property market.” Britain’s five-year fiscal austerity program starts in earnest this year, and the prospect of this — together with sluggish wage growth and limited mortgage finance — has depressed house prices since the middle of 2010.
London house prices are holding up better because they are being supported by buying from overseas. The proportion of surveyors expecting a fall in prices across England and Wales over the next three months increased, with RICS balance falling to -28 from January’s seven-month high of -26. The RICS figures are broadly consistent with those from mortgage lenders Halifax and Nationwide, who have reported flat to slightly lower prices over the past three months.