"Greedy" West Midland property owners demanding record prices for their homes are finding themselves adrift in the gap between their expectations and what buyers are actually willing to pay, according to two new snapshots of the housing market.
As house prices slipped back in the West Midlands during March, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the increasing disparity between sellers and buyers saw asking prices reach a record level in the region - at £176,123, up 2.1 per cent over the month. RICS found 52 per cent of the region's chartered surveyors saw a fall in the price, at which, homes ended up changing hands.
The figure was down 11 per cent from the 63 per cent who saw declines in February - suggesting the West Midlands market is holding its nerve after official Government figures showed declines in the region between October and January.
But despite the apparent stabilisation of the market, West Midland sellers are still set to find themselves disappointed. Rightmove commercial director Miles Shipside warned they were simply being too optimistic.
"It looks like the Bank of England has got its message through to buyers, but not yet to sellers.
"You can't blame people for being a bit greedy, but they shouldn't forget it's a buyers' market."
With an early Easter making for a more subdued market, the number of houses sold showed little change for a second consecutive month in March and new inquiries continued to decline.
But the RICS predicted as the market enters a more settled period, the outlook for prices is more positive than it has been for much of 2005.
Harvey Williams, national and Midlands housing spokesperson for RICS, said: "March saw signs of greater stability entering the region's market, reflected in the continued hold on interest rates by the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee for the eighth consecutive month."
He added that stamp duty proved a key issue for the market last month. RICS had campaigned for the threshold to go up from £60,000 to £150,000. Chancellor Gordon Brown instead upped the limit to £120,000 in last month's Budget.
"We will still see a number of first-time buyers struggling to get on the ladder with properties under £120,000 scarce in many parts of the West Midlands," said Mr Williams.
Nationally, RICS said March sales prices fell further and at a slightly faster pace, amid "restrained" market conditions. Surveyors expect further price falls and an ongoing buyers' market, but are optimistic that sales will increase as underlying economic conditions improve, it said. Rightmove said asking prices for homes rose by 1.3 per cent to a record high between mid-March and mid-April, over the UK.
The prices demanded by sellers for their properties lifted by £2,577 to an average of £197,539, topping the "boom time" high in July last year by £1,341. Asking prices rose between February and March by 0.6 per cent.