U.K. House-Price Index Rises as Demand at Four-Year High

A U.K. house-price gauge rose in June as government measures to help the property market pushed demand to the highest in almost four years, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said.

A price index increased to 21, the highest since January 2010, from 5 in May, London-based RICS said in an e-mailed report today, citing a monthly poll of property surveyors. A positive number means more respondents saw values increase rather than decline. A measure of new buyer enquiries rose to 38, the highest since August 2009, from 30.

RICS said the improvement in the market is a “clear sign” that government and Bank of England measures are “making a difference.” The report follows similarly upbeat data from Halifax, Hometrack Ltd. and Nationwide Building Society, all of which said house prices rose in June.

“After what has seemed like a very long wait, we are finally starting to see what looks like the beginning of a recovery,” Peter Bolton King, global residential director at RICS, said in the report. Still, it’s “important to remember that activity levels still remain depressed by historic standards.”

Separately today, the British Retail Consortium’s monthly report added to signs of an improving economy. Like-for-like retail sales rose 1.4 percent in June from a year earlier, while total sales increased 2.9 percent, according to the BRC, which said warmer weather boosted clothing demand.

As June 2012 was boosted by the extra public holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee, the group said the June 2013 retail figures “are all the more creditable.”

Housing Boost

The revival in the property market is being supported by the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme, which has helped to lower banks’ funding costs, and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s Help to Buy initiative, aimed at supporting homebuyers.

RICS said surveyors have become more optimistic about the property market, with a net balance of 45 percent predicting sales will increase over the next three months. That’s the highest since that index began in 1999. A price expectations gauge increased to 23 from 21.

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