U.K. Home Sellers Increase Prices in Sign of Rebound

U.K. home sellers raised their asking prices to the most for a February in five years as inquiries from potential buyers increased, Rightmove Plc said.

Prices sought rose 2.8 percent from January to 235,741 pounds ($365,000), the property-website operator said in a report published today. They increased 1.1 percent from a year earlier. In London, asking values gained 1.2 percent, the smallest increase for a February in four years.

“Some agents are reporting their busiest new year since the onset of the credit crunch,” Miles Shipside, director at Rightmove, said in the statement. “While encouraging, it’s far too early to pop the champagne corks as certain sectors will remain on ice until the return of wider-spread mortgage availability.”

While recent house-price data have been mixed, credit-boosting measures such as the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme have helped increase mortgage availability and reinvigorate the property market. The central bank last week forecast a “slow but sustained recovery” for the U.K., though it said high inflation will continue to squeeze households.

Housing-market activity has been boosted by new properties being put up for sale after a dearth of transactions over Christmas, Rightmove said. In London, while the average asking price reached a record 486,890 pounds, the pace of increases is slowing, gaining only 0.7 percent from three months ago. Asking prices in the capital were up 8.4 percent from a year earlier.

London Prices

“While London has been the out-perform market of the U.K. and the first to recover from the credit-crunch, there is a barrier to what people can afford to pay,” Shipside said. “It remains to be seen whether sellers can achieve their record new price aspirations.”

Rightmove said first-time buyers are still struggling to buy homes, with almost half of people purchasing property doing so for at least the third time. By contrast, only 22 percent of people intending to buy a home in 2013 will be doing so for the first time.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said last week that an index of house prices fell in January, while Halifax on Feb. 6 also reported a decline in home values. Acadametrics Ltd. and LSL Property Services said prices rose in the same period, citing a boost from the FLS.

Separately today, the British Retail Consortium said the number of shoppers visiting stores in the U.K. fell 4.6 percent in January from a year earlier as snowfall hit most of the country. At shopping malls, so-called footfall fell 5.2 percent, while shopper numbers on high streets declined 3.3 percent.

Asian Growth

In Asia, Thailand’s economic growth accelerated more than economists estimated, joining Asian nations from Indonesia to the Philippines in showing resilience to the faltering global economy as local demand rises. Gross domestic product increased 18.9 percent in the three months through December from a year earlier, the National Economic and Social Development Board said in Bangkok.

Malaysia’s growth probably accelerated to 5.5 percent last quarter from a year earlier, after expanding 5.2 percent the previous three months, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey ahead of a Feb. 20 report.

In Britain, the economy shrank 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. Economists in a Bloomberg survey published on Feb. 15 forecast 0.2 percent growth this quarter and an acceleration to 0.3 percent in the three months through June.

Separately, the Bundesbank said today it expects Germany’s economy to return to growth this quarter after a 0.6 percent contraction in the last three months of 2012.

“The economic outlook for Germany has improved relatively quickly and in remarkable fashion in the past three months,” the Frankfurt-based central bank said in its monthly report. “For the first quarter of 2013 an expansion of overall economic output can be expected.”

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