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British Home Sellers Raised Asking Prices, Rightmove Says

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. home sellers raised asking prices for a third month in March as a shortage of properties for sale helped support values, Rightmove Plc said.

Average asking prices in England and Wales rose 0.8 percent to 231,790 pounds ($377,000) from February, the operator of Britain’s biggest property website said in a report today. In London, prices fell 1.5 percent, with the Kensington and Chelsea district among the worst performers.

“This month’s number of sellers, still handcuffed by a lack of equity, has managed to limp just ahead of the number of deposit-shackled buyers,” Miles Shipside, commercial director of Rightmove, said in the report. “But the market is still restrained by low transaction volumes and restricted liquidity.”

Recent house-price data have been mixed as a lack of supply props up home values, while banks’ rationing of credit and record low consumer confidence curb demand. Lloyds Banking Group Plc’s Halifax unit said on March 4 that house prices fell last month and that economic uncertainty may weigh on demand.

The number of unsold homes per real-estate agent rose to an average of 70 from 69, according to Rightmove. Shipside said the lack of market liquidity is building up a “legacy of longer-term problems.”

In London, the average asking price fell to 424,307 pounds this month. Values in Bromley, south London, and Ealing, in the west of the capital, dropped 5.1 percent, the report showed. Prices in the exclusive Kensington and Chelsea area fell 5 percent. Over the first quarter, overall London values increased 3.8 percent from the previous three months.

‘Negative Implications’

House prices fell 0.5 percent in February from a month earlier and stand 1.1 percent lower than the same month in 2010, according to a “poll of polls” published today by the Centre for Economics & Business Research for property broker Chesterton Humberts.

The Bank of England may be forced into raising its key interest rate to tackle inflation, a move that would have “negative implications” for house prices, the CEBR said.

The U.K. central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low of 0.5 percent this month. Sixty-two percent of respondents in a survey published by the central bank last week expect the rate to rise over the next 12 months, up from 52 percent in November.

To contact the reporter on this story: Svenja O’Donnell in London at sodonnell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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