THE embattled Scottish housing market enjoyed an unexpected boost in September from sellers hoping to move home in the autumn, according to a new report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

Its latest UK housing market survey showed that while other parts of the UK saw a drop in the number of houses being put up for sale, September reported the most activity from sellers since May north of the Border.

"Scottish sellers have returned to the autumn market, probably hoping to sell by Christmas," said Rics Scotland director Graeme Hartley. "Realistically-priced properties are selling and chartered surveyors expect sales to increase over the coming months."

He added that while many surveyors had reported that would-be buyers were still finding it hard to get mortgages from lenders, recent economic measures such as quantitative easing - when more cash is pumped into the economy to stimulate activity - were likely to keep mortgage rates low, encouraging people to buy.

"This, if nothing else, should ease the pressure on existing homeowners and limit the risk of a material pick-up in repossessions," he said.

UK-wide, sales continued to fall as fears of a double-dip recession knocked confidence. Despite fragile consumer confidence and continuing fears over the economy causing some people to think twice before moving, surveyors in Scotland expect sales to pick up during autumn.

"Indications are that a few more sales are happening and there is an increase in viewings," said surveyor Ian Morton, of Bradburne & Co in St Andrews.

"This time last year we saw the market fall off a cliff, so this year we have been watching carefully to see what happens," said Chris Highton of Allied Surveyors Scotland in the Borders. "Transaction levels appear to have increased after the summer break, although we still have a buyers' market, with a downward pressure on prices."

He added: "Good houses in good locations still tend to sell."

The surveyors predicted that investors in some parts of the UK will now begin to return to property investment as a haven from the turbulent financial markets.

However, for those relying on mortgage finance, the large deposits required by lenders continue to act as a barrier for many would-be buyers.

House prices in Scotland remained greatly unchanged in September, with 82 per cent of chartered surveyors saying they had stayed the same - which the report's authors said was an encouraging sign. Just 3 per cent said they had gone up and 15 per cent said they believed prices had dropped. Prices only showed signs of increasing in London, while all other areas of the UK noted a drop. "Scotland's net price balance, although negative, showed a marked improvement," said the report.

 

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