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News - 27 April 2003

Housing Joins the Bear Market as Economy Falters

As average house prices climb to over 5 times household income (the ratio has never exceeded 5.5) first time buyers are giving up at the bottom end of the market and estate agents are reporting falls of 15% to 20% in asking prices at the £500,000 plus end.

The average number of property sales per estate agent has fallen over 7 percentage points in the first quarter of this year. Although the circumstances are very different from the property crash of the late 80s (not least of which borrowing at its lowest rate for three decades which results in a smaller proportion of disposable income being needed to service mortgage debt) declining house prices will have an effect on consumer confidence, which is already waning in the face of a tighter economic outlook.

Economic growth slowed to a snail's pace in the first quarter with the economy growing by just 0.2%. The slowdown was particularly marked in the service sector which grew by just 0.3% which is a third of the rate shown over the past decade. If this trend continues it could be a blow for Brighton & Hove which relies heavily non this sector for employment. It now seems highly unlikely that growth next year will match the Chancellor's optimistic budget forecast of between 3 and 3.5%.(see KnowledgeBase for other stories).

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