House sales rise to highest rate in 6 years
House sales by chartered surveyors rose to their highest rate in six years during the first quarter of 2014. Figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) have shown that surveyors sold an average of 22.7 houses each between January and March. This is the highest to be recorded since February 2008, Rics has said, as buyer enquiries rose across all regions of the UK except for Wales, where the situation remained static. Greater activity has been recorded across the country, with newly agreed sales rising most prominently in areas outside London for the second consecutive month, but a lack of supply is hampering the market somewhat, the organisation said. The increase in activity is being accompanied by house price rises, with 57 per cent more surveyors saying they saw property prices increase rather than fall during March. The areas of the south-west and East Midlands recorded the most noticeable growth in prices outside London and the south-east. Commenting on the future outlook, Rics said: "Looking ahead, with no indication that the imbalance between buyer demand and homes on the market is going to change any time soon, surveyors expected prices to continue to increase as we enter the summer months." Chief economist at Rics Simon Rubinsohn described the lack of new homes coming on to the market as a "major concern". He called for more properties to be built in areas where people want to buy a home in order to stem rising house prices and help first-time buyers get on to the property ladder. Earlier this year, Rics reported that house-building was undergoing a revival. Regional workloads rose for the second consecutive quarter at the end of 2013 and three-quarters of surveyors said they expected workloads to increase during 2014. The main challenges faced by the industry were shown to be a skills shortage and lack of materials; bricklayers in particular were found to be scarce and the number of surveyors reporting skill sourcing problems rose to its highest rate since mid-2006. Meanwhile, bricks and cement blocks were revealed to be in short supply. Director of built environment professional groups at Rics Alan Muse said that while activity is up, more than 230,000 new homes need to be built to keep up with the growing population, adding that further government initiatives would be necessary to this end.
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