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Green Shoots May Be Emerging, says Rightmove

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There are signs of green shoots in the housing market, Rightmove said this morning.

It said traffic to the site is up 27% on this time a year ago, and new listings have increased by 22%.

Currently, 11,153 properties are being newly listed on the site each week, compared with 9,108 a year go. While this is still 37% down on five years ago, this is the highest level recorded at the beginning of a new year since 2008, Rightmove said.

Asking prices have barely changed from last month, creeping up just 0.2% to stand at an average of £229,429. The figure is just 0.4% below the highest January asking price ever recorded – £230,428 in January 2008.

In London, asking prices for property new to the market have jumped 3.6% to stand at £480,890. It takes the annual increase to 9.7%. The shortage of stock in London, which reduced some agents to starvation levels, has improved, with a weekly run rate of 2,795 – up from the 1,396 new listings recorded in January 2012 but still 34% down on five years ago.

Record-breaking traffic to Rightmove has been boosted by the growth in mobile devices. On Christmas Day, the proportion of Rightmove’s pages viewed via mobile devices more than doubled compared to normal levels, and has remained high since.

However, Rightmove director Miles Shipside said it was unclear whether people were actually searching for properties on Christmas Day or simply trying out their presents.

He did, however, say that early indicators offer reasons to be confident that both prices and transaction levels will rise modestly this year.

He said: “After five years of putting their lives and moves on hold with their spare space shrinking around them, it looks like some of the pent-up demand to move is breaking out.

“Perhaps more are becoming immune to the relentless flow of bad news stories. Financial Armageddon seems to have been averted and people are getting on with their lives.”

But Rightmove’s comments were challenged by property company boss Nick Robinson, of PPR Estates, a property investment firm which specialises in buying distressed portfolios.

He said: “The annual rush of enthusiasm from estate agents each January is now in full swing with campaigns all over the media to persuade us that all is normal in the property market and now is the perfect time to sell or buy.

“Unfortunately, this could not be further from the reality that most potential sellers and house buyers are experiencing as we head into 2013. Seller numbers, whilst up on last year, are still circa half the numbers needed in a functioning market.

“As we all know, instructing an estate agent is free and is often little more than a testing of the water.

“Buyers still require huge deposits going into 2013 and actual buying prices remain slightly down at best, excluding the London bubble. Estate agent enthusiasm alone cannot drive the UK housing market.”

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