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U.K. Consumer Outlook for Housing Market Improves, Survey Shows

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March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Britons’ outlook for the housing market has improved in the past three months, according to a report by the Building Societies Association.

Forty-one percent of consumers surveyed in March said they expect property prices to increase this year, compared with 33 percent in December, the London-based group said in an e-mailed statement today. Those in the southeast were the most optimistic, with 53 percent forecasting increases in values.

U.K. housing is getting a temporary boost as first-time buyers move to beat the expiration of a property-tax exemption this month. A price gauge by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors rose to a 19-month high in February. Still, rising unemployment and the weak economic recovery may limit any increase in demand.

The number of consumers who said that now is a good time to buy a house was at 44 percent this month, unchanged from December and up from 41 percent a year earlier, the BSA said. Its survey of 2,044 adults was carried out between March 2 and March 5.

“Despite these improvements, it remains clear that significant barriers are still in the way of aspiring home owners and growth in this sector, not least rising fears over job security,” the BSA said.

Some 56 percent of respondents cited unemployment concerns as a barrier to buying a property, while 12 percent mentioned the stamp-duty levy.