The latest Rightmove house price index has revealed a virtual price standstill as new sellers are asking for just 0.1% more for their properties in March.
This is way below the usual monthly average of 1.3% recorded between 2002 and 2009.
The lull has coincided with the return of sellers, with 34% more properties coming to market compared to March 2009, meaning more competition and less opportunity to increase asking prices.
Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmov, says: "As usual we've seen a winter price lull followed by a New Year bounce, though at a national level it's never previously fizzled out before spring has really sprung.
"Observers of the market should note that new sellers are up by over a third on March last year and by 17.5% on last month, so in some areas more restrained pricing is required as a direct consequence of buyers having more choice. We still forecast some further rises in the first half of this year when buyers have picked over the newly marketed stock, though the small increase in March shows how much more unpredictable the market has become."
Rightmove also revealed a sharp fall in time properties spent on the market, down from an average of 84 to 63 days. While this is the lowest it has ever measured at this time of year, it is a culmination of months of low new supply coming to market rather than property flying off the shelves.
Despite mortgage lending figures stalling in January, there is now a gradual increase in products available for would-be first-time buyers and the tentative reopening of the markets for mortgage securitisation. The more credit-worthy applicants are the target of lenders who must seek a greater share of the good margins currently available in the market to rebuild their balance sheets and profitability. However, that still leaves the majority of aspiring first-time buyers out of financial favour.
In the recent Rightmove Consumer Confidence Survey, 61% of those in rented accommodation stated they would like to buy but could not currently afford to do so.
The Government's Homebuy assisted purchase scheme for new-build properties could reduce this frustration, but additional research by Rightmove has uncovered a lack of awareness in the scheme among those whom it is intended to help.
Only 22% of the 3,463 potential first-time buyers surveyed stated they were aware of the scheme, with another 34% saying they had heard the name but were unaware of the details. A further 44% had never heard of it. The initiative allows aspiring home-owners to purchase a share in a house while renting the rest - giving them an opportunity to get on the housing ladder earlier and buy the remainder of their home as and when their finances allow.
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