The West Midlands is not sharing fully in tentative signs of a more active housing market across most of Britain.
Measured in terms of homes sold for each surveyor, activity slowed down in the West Midlands during the first three months of this year, contrary to the national trends according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
The average in the region dipped to eight from ten in the three months to last December.
New inquiries by would-be buyers did pick up for the fifth month running - but by less in the West Midlands than in most other regions.
This has left the region’s estate agents cautious about the future. Only four per cent of them now expect their sales to improve in the coming months, down from seven per cent in February.
Separate numbers from the Council of Mortgage Lenders indicated that activity in the housing market picked up perceptibly in February.
The number of mortgages completed for house purchase rose by nearly four per cent, led by a seven per cent recovery in those to first-time buyers.
The Council of Mortgage Lenders said its members lent £3.1 billion for all kinds of house purchase – a total unchanged from January. The number of these loans increased from 23,400 to 24,300, still less than half the number in February last year and less than a third of the average between 2002 and 2007.
The average value of house purchase loans fell to £127,600 from £132,500, between January and February, partly reflecting lower house prices.
A new feature was that 9,400 of them went to first-time buyers a seven per cent monthly increase, though still heavily down from the 17,400 first timer mortgages completed in February last year.
Tough lending standards set by banks and building societies remained a barrier for most would-be first-timers. They typically put up deposits of 25 per cent in February, an all-time record.
The typical first-timer borrowed £95,000, 2.95 times their income, down from £97,000, a multiple of three, in January and £114,000 in February last year. Interest payments are now absorbing 15.4 per cent of the average first-timer’s income, down sharply from 20.1 per cent in February and less than at any time since June, 2004.
Home-movers completed 14,900 mortgages in February, up from 14,500 in January, but less than half the number in February last year, and worth a total of £2.1 billion – representing a fall of 45 per cent year on year.
The typical home-movers’ mortgage was £113,980 or 2.65 their income, down from £133,200 or 2.98 times income a year earlier.
The CML noted a shift back to fixed rate mortgages and away from trackers, linked to the Bank of England’s interest rate. Fixed-rate deals accounted for 56 per cent of new mortgages in February, up from 49 per cent in January, while the proportion of trackers fell to 31 per cent from 38 per cent.