House Prices 'Risk Becoming Unsustainable'
Surveyors have warned that house prices risk becoming unsustainable in some areas because low home supply is failing to meet high demand in the market.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) measured the strongest level of sales in six years ahead of Christmas.
Its report predicts prices will rise by 5% on average in each of the next five years but warns that a lack of properties for sale risks people paying far more than market value to secure a home.
Its survey found around 21 property sales were made per surveyor in the three months to December, the highest average seen since spring 2008 and more than double the rate of a low point in January 2009 when fewer than 10 sales had been made per surveyor in the preceding three months.
Rics' latest housing market report said that during December, a net balance of 56% more surveyors reported prices rising rather than falling.
Every area of the UK saw prices increase, with London and the South East experiencing the biggest upward trend.
Surveyors predict that both sales and values will continue to move firmly upwards through 2014.
The general view was that this will largely be driven by lenders relaxing their borrowing conditions, resulting in them becoming more willing to lend to home buyers with low deposits, as well as an ongoing imbalance in the housing market as demand for homes continues to outstrip supply.
The report said that the property recovery was continuing "full steam ahead", with an upbeat outlook for property prices now visible in areas such as Northern Ireland, which has seen prices start to stabilise in recent months.
A new phase of the Government's Help to Buy scheme offering state-backed mortgages to people with 5% deposits was launched in October.
Figures released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) on Wednesday showed that the number of home loans handed out to first-time buyers was at a six-year high in November.
The CML also expected to see continued growth in mortgage lending in 2014.
Some housing market experts have urged stronger action to inject a fresh supply of homes to keep up with growing demand in the market and ease the upward pressure that the current imbalance is having on house prices.
Peter Bolton King, Rics global residential director, said: "The housing market is starting to thrive once more.
"Sales are at their highest level in almost six years and this is being reflected right across the UK.
"Growing availability of affordable mortgages has released some pent-up demand from a market that, in recent years, has seen many viable buyers unable to enter the market.
"On the face of it, this seems like good news but unless we see a marked increase in the number of homes coming up for sale we could well be looking at price rises becoming unsustainable in some areas."
As sales have picked up amid blossoming confidence in the housing market, surveyors also reported a slowing demand for rented homes.
But they also said that the shortage of homes generally would continue to push rents higher, with annual increases of around 4% expected for each of the next five years.
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