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Stock levels hit their lowest

The lowest stock levels this century, and almost certainly for far longer, are reported by Rightmove this morning.

Whilst asking prices for new properties put on the market this month have nudged up 0.4% on last month, stock levels have dwindled alarmingly.

Rightmove says that the number of available properties per estate agency branch is now 63.The figure will seem high to those offices in London and the south-east that have fewer than 20 properties listed, but low to those volume estate agencies in the north accustomed to having 200 or more properties on their books.

Whilst the average per branch is the lowest since January 2008, Rightmove says this does not tell the full story.“With many estate agency branches having closed since then, this figure is buoyed by the smaller number of branches sharing the available stock,” says commercial director Miles Shipside.“We estimate the number of properties currently available for sale is the lowest since we started monitoring the housing market in 2000.”

Rightmove says that 10,000 estate agency branches are listed on its site, sharing 50,624 new properties coming to the market.Whilst a 15% increase on this time last year, the new instructions figure is still way down on the 89,000 average of the same period in 2006 and 2007.

It also suggests that typically, an agent might have taken on five new properties but could be stuck with a number of properties that are not shifting at all, or are being slow to sell.

According to Rightmove, there are also drastically fewer new-build properties coming to market, with many developments mothballed or cancelled in late 2008 and early 2009, and developers now either unwilling or unable to rebuild their pipelines.

Shipside adds: “Low stock levels are normally associated with house price booms, and prices would have fallen considerably further but for the unique combination of circumstances that has kept stock off the market.“

Buyers have little choice in popular areas, and at present the limited supply of sellers is being outstripped by buyer demand. However, we predict there will be more forced selling later in the year.”

Rightmove’s asking prices – now at a UK average of £222,261 – are still massively disconnected from the mortgage-agreed prices reported by Halifax and Nationwide. The lenders are currently reporting UK average house prices of £169,042 and £162,103 respectively.


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