June 10, 2020 / 11:12 PM / 22 days ago

UK house prices hit 10-year low but recovery signs emerge: RICS

FILE PHOTO: Property sale signs are seen outside of a group of newly built houses in west London, Britain, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - A gauge of British house prices hit a 10-year low in May but there are signs that confidence is returning to the market after the government lifted its coronavirus lockdown for buyers and sellers in England, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said its headline house price balance slumped to -32% in May, its lowest since 2010, from -22% in April.

But expectations for house prices in 12 months’ time were less negative than a month earlier and new buyer enquiries recovered from a record low of -94% in April to -5% in May.

Near-term sales expectations were now broadly neutral and the 12-month outlook improved, RICS said.

Property website Zoopla said on Wednesday that house sales in England had rebounded since the government allowed estate agents to reopen last month.

RICS Chief Economist Simon Rubinsohn said sales that were in the pipeline before the lockdown were now largely going through.

“But it remains to be seen how sustained this improvement will prove,” he said, pointing to uncertainty about a possible jump in unemployment when the government’s jobs retention programme expires at the end of October.

“For the time being respondents to the survey see the trend in transactions being broadly flat.”

The survey also showed buyers, after their lockdown experience, were looking increasingly for properties with gardens or balconies and located nearer to green spaces.

Reporting by William Schomberg

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