Data from members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) suggests residential house prices fell more slowly in December than in the previous three months.
The proportion of RICS members surveyed who reported more prices falling than rising dropped to 37% from 46% in November.
December also marked the first month since March last year in which the number of completed sales did not fall on the previous month.
RICS suggests these figures indicate the housing market is stabilising after a period of price and market activity falls.
Still, with sales volumes 30% down on the same month one year earlier, the Institute does not expect considerable improvements.
For example, levels of unsold properties on surveyors’ books continues to rise, RICS adds. London was the best market in December, with members active there reporting prices were little changed through the month, compared with other regions where prices declined more steeply.
The message from RICS contrasts sharply with that from specialist lender Paragon Mortgages, which says its figures for the year to 31 December indicate average buy-to-let landlord returns hit 31% last year.
In nominal terms this equals a return of £38,560 on an average property bought for £123,372 at the start of 2004.
Returns improved on 2003, when the average gain was 20%, or £22,137.
Landlords in Wales did best of all regions, making a near 58% return over one year on their investments, including both capital appreciation and rental income that averaged £7,515.
Helping landlords was the average increase in values of their properties during December, compared with the slight fall in the value of owner-occupied properties, Paragon says.
Average annual rents also broke through the £10,000 barrier for the first time, according to the Paragon Buy-to-Let Index, with an increase in the number of people unwilling to commit to ownership at current house prices.
"Landlords tend to be astute property purchasers and they take advantage of any dips in prices to achieve a good deal and make shrewd investments," Paragon comments.
Paragon’s figures suggest average yields on buy-to-let investments now run between a high of 7.59% in the South West, down to an average of 5.98% in Greater London.
The focus of property investment could be changing, however, according to figures from private equity facilitator Hotbed, which matches private equity investors and investments worth up to £5m.
Its latest forecast on private equity trends suggests the pending City bonus season will see money put into commercial rather than top-end residential property.
”In the current climate, private equity and commercial property do represent an exciting alternative to, say, residential property or topping up flagging pension pots,” says chief executive Gary Robins.IFAonline
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