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LONDON-The recent announcement by quoted estate agency Chesterton of a downturn in the residential property market has been met with astonishment by one of the country’s top property agents. FPD Savills has announced that it can find no evidence of such a downturn.

‘Indeed,’ said Yolande Barnes, head of research at FPD Savills, ‘all the evidence to hand suggests that the opposite is the case.’ Chesterton had issued a statement following a tumble in its already precarious share price citing the likely downturn in the housing market as the prime reason for the company’s poor performance.

Barnes claimed today that, ‘Contrary to all reports from Chesterton, the Land Registry data for the first quarter of 2001 shows turnover up by 19% on the previous year in the £200,000 ($280,000) to £500,000 ($700,000) ranges, and up by 15% for properties over £500,000 ($700,000). The upper price brackets are actually the most active area of the residential market.’

There is no sign of a downturn in prices either. FPD Savills recorded price rises in prime central London of five per cent in the first quarter of 2001 alone and early indications from second quarter data suggest that this rate of growth may even have accelerated. Barnes said that her team had identified two major push factors that are keeping the markets high. One is the favourable rate of exchange for US dollar-dominated purchasers, which makes UK property look particularly cheap. Also real estate is out-performing equities which makes property look a particularly attractive investment.

‘We do not rule out the possibility of a market slowdown towards the end of the year or in 2002,’ said Barnes, ‘but it definitely hasn’t happened yet and shows little sign in doing so at present. The motive and evidence behind Chesterton’s announcement remains a mystery to us.’

Chesterton’s share price on the FTSE all-share index closed at 1p up last night at 26.5p.

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