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HOUSE SALES SEE SPRING BOUNCE

House sales in the UK are continuing to revive after their post-Christmas slump, figures have suggested.

HM Revenue & Customs said sales rose by 13,000 in March from February to 72,000, a jump of 22%.

The level of sales was also 24% higher than in March last year, when the market was at its most depressed.

However, sales are still less than half the number reported at the same stage of 2007, before the market collapsed under the impact of the credit crunch.

For the first three months of 2010 as a whole, completed sales, at 182,000, were 28% higher than in the first quarter of last year, highlighting the extent to which activity has picked up since early last year.

In the past week, estate agents and surveyors have both reported a big rise in the number of people putting their homes up for sale.

However, a big rise in sales between February and March is normal for the UK property market.

And earlier this week the Council of Mortgage Lenders said that activity would still be relatively subdued this year and repeated its warning that lenders' finances were likely to be severely restricted for several years.

Flat prices predicted

The latest survey of Trends in Lending, published by the Bank of England, suggested that the market may now be about to pick up, albeit in a modest fashion.

"Gross lending for house purchase increased in March according to data from the major UK lenders, and their mortgage approvals for house purchase rose after falls in the previous three months," the Bank said.

Lenders told the Bank that in their view the effects of the cold winter weather at the start of the year, and the rush by buyers to beat the reintroduction of the old stamp duty threshold of £125,000 at the end of 2009, had now dissipated.

"The major UK lenders expected the impact of the new stamp duty land tax relief announced in the Budget to have some positive impact on mortgage activity from first-time buyers, though obtaining the deposit for house purchase - rather than the cost of stamp duty - was perceived by some lenders to be the greater constraint to house purchase," the Bank said.

"The major UK lenders expected house prices to be broadly flat over the coming year," it added.
 

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