Surveyors have reported “tentative signs” of a recovery in the property market, despite small numbers of homes being sold.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said members were “universally optimistic” about sales.

They also reported a big rise in interest from potential new buyers.

Source: RICS

The European Central Bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to a new record low of 1 per cent today, as expected.

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said the euro-zone economy was showing tentative signs of stabilising at a very low level.

The European Commission has forecast that the end of the recession is in sight.

The Bank of England has kept interest rates on hold at 0.5% and announced that it will inject an extra £50bn into the UK economy.

ECB HQ Frankfurt

ECB HQ Frankfurt

Rents across Ireland have fallen 5 per cent in the first three months of this year, according to report published today.

In its latest survey on the rental market, property website found the national average rent is now €840 per month, a drop of €160 on the same period last year.

The major cities experienced the biggest drops, the report found. In Dublin and Limerick, cities rents were down by up to 6.5 per cent, while in Waterford city and Cork city, rents fell by 5.3 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively.

Nationwide rents have posted falls for 14 consecutive months and are 17.5 per cent lower than the peak in early 2008.

“The rental market is feeling the brunt of too much supply and not enough demand,” said Ronan Lyons, economist with Daft. “The number of properties available for rent is now over 23,000 – an all time high. This additional supply is having a downward effect on price and is also pushing out the time it is taking to rent properties”.

The Daft Rental Report is based on an analysis of all rental properties advertised on since January 2009, including 250,000 since January 2008.

Sources: Irish Times & Daft

British Banks are offering mortgages to first-time buyers in the Irish Republic at half the rate that they are available in the UK.

Halifax, part of the Lloyds Banking Group, is charging 2.74 per cent for a two-year fixed-rate deal to first-time buyers in Dublin. A five-year fixed-rate deal would cost borrowers in its home town of Edinburgh 6.14 per cent. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is charging 2.95 per cent for a new mortgage in Ireland; in the UK, it charges 5.99 per cent for a similar product.

Obviously the banks are speculating that the Euro will strengthen against the pound in the foreseeable future.

Source: The Times

The test case between the Office of Fair Trading and Foxtons, on the legality of letting renewal fees, appears to hinge on how much work an agent does.

The suggestion was made in court this week by Nicholas Green QC, appearing for the OFT.

He said the OFT was challenging Foxtons’ right to claim continued commission, regardless of whether Foxtons managed the property and regardless of whether they played a part in persuading the tenant to stay on after the initial tenancy period.

He added: “There is not necessarily any connection between an original introduction and a tenant’s decision to renew their lease.

“Where there is a link and the agent plays a part, we say it is fair for them to earn further commission. But what we object to is an automatic right to commission for forever and a day.”

Mr Green also criticised the confusing terms and conditions in Foxtons’ contracts, saying they were not in plain English and would confuse a consumer, because “nothing tells you what you are letting yourself in for”.

In the Foxtons case, the OFT is using the same consumer protection laws that it is using to challenge the high street banks over unauthorised overdraft fees.

The Unfair Terms and Conditions Consumer Contract Regulations (1999) state that contracts must be clear and also that some agreements are unfair and illegal, even if the consumer knows what they are getting into upfront and does so willingly. However, the OFT says that only a court can decide.

That decision may take some weeks to come through, the OFT said earlier this week.

Source: Estate Agent Today

Michael Coogan, director general of the Council Of Mortgage Lenders:

“The most important element of this Budget for the mortgage market over the long term may prove to be the new asset backed securities guarantee scheme. This potentially offers an opportunity to restart the capital market funding for mortgages that will be a crucial factor in delivering an adequate supply of mortgage credit.”

Gillian Charlesworth, RICS Director of External Affairs:

“The Chancellor has recognised the need for assistance to the housing market as essential to helping Britain’s economic recovery. Government action to support mortgage lending should help translate buyer interest, which has picked up in recent months, into actual sales. Additional funding for HomeBuy Direct and extending the stamp duty holiday should also encourage those wishing to get on the housing ladder. Measures announced by the Chancellor will help move towards a sustainable and vibrant housing market for the future.”

Ian Potter, operations manager of The Association of Residential Letting Agents:

“Yet again Gordon Brown’s administration has wasted an opportunity to improve the quality of stock of lettings property by failing to incentivise landlords through tax relief on labour and materials. Not only would this have helped to stimulate the market, particularly in the construction sector, but it would also have provided the greater standards of rented accommodation that this country desperately needs.”

Source: The Rat & Mouse

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders there has been a 16% rise in March, but this is to be expected in Spring time.

Gross mortgage lending was an estimated £11.5 billion in March, a 16% rise from £9.9 billion in February but a 52% decline from £24.2 billion in March 2008.

Source: Council of Mortgage Lenders

For the third consecutive month new sellers have raised their average asking prices, this
time by 1.8% (£3,996). It could be argued that one or two months of rises is the result of
traditional spring optimism and volatility caused by low volumes, but three months in a row
and the largest rise for 14 months may indicate that we have finally reached a price floor
and confidence is starting to return.

But there are plenty of causes for caution… mortgages approvals still historically very low.

Source: Rightmove

The housing market is showing signs of stabilising, albeit at very low levels, with average sales up slightly in March and a smaller majority of estate agents still reporting falling prices, according to a leading survey.

The monthly findings from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors show that the number of property sales per surveying agency stopped falling in March, with the average in the three months to March standing at 9.7, compared with 9.6 in the three months to February.

Source: Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Banks have begun to ease their ban on homeowners who borrowed more than the value of their property, in a sign that lending criteria may be beginning to ease.

For the first time in more than a year, HBOS part of Lloyds Banking Group, is offering to lend homeowners 100 per cent mortgages.