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News - 14 November 2009

Interest in property market increases but lack of loans expected to cap prices

Experian Hitwise, a leading online competitive intelligence service, has found that UK Internet visits to property websites increased by 4.8% between October 2008 and October 2009. This is the first annual increase in UK internet traffic to property websites for over two years but despite the increased interest, limited finance options remain an issue.

The online property market was one of the first areas to suffer as a result of the credit crunch in autumn 2007 and by January 2008 visits to the category were contracting at an annual rate of 36.6%.

“Traffic to online property websites has been recovering gradually throughout 2009, but this is the first month that we have experienced an actual annual increase,” commented Robin Goad, Director of Research at Experian Hitwise.

“The internet is the first place many people turn when looking to move house, but over the last couple of years a lack of inventory on many sites has put people off. If, as predicted, the recent house price increases reported by Nationwide and Halifax result in more properties coming onto the market, it is likely that online traffic will increase further".

"While an increase in supply may lead to a short term reduction in prices, any increase in listings should help property websites attract more visitors.”

Property website recovery is being led by London, the South East and the South West

The increase in UK internet traffic to property websites is being driven by a growth in visitors from the south of England. During October 2009, people from London were 15% more likely to visit a property website than the UK average, while for both the South East and South West the figure was 9%. The parts of the UK with the lowest representation compared with their populations were Northern Ireland (which was one of the most popular parts of the country for property websites before the credit crunch) and Wales.

All of the top ten, over-represented postal area visits to property websites during October were in London or the South East, with London East Central (EC) and Bromley (BR) topping the list. At the other end of the spectrum, the list of the bottom ten was dominated by postal areas in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the North of England. Lerwick in Scotland (ZE) was the least represented postal area amongst UK visitors to property websites, while Durham (DH) was the lowest ranked English city.

However the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) issued forecasts last week suggesting that lending will rise modestly from £141bn this year to only £150bn in 2010. This will limit sales of UK homes to about 850,000 and the situation is not expected to change as long as lenders continue to require 25% deposits.

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