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LONDON-House price rises slowed in September to the lowest level since April, according to the latest housing survey from Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The difference between chartered surveyors reporting price rises and those reporting price falls dropped to 38% in September, from 49% the previous month, reflecting the market slowdown.

At the same time the number of enquiries from prospective buyers fell away sharply in the days following the terrorist attacks on the USA on 11 September. But towards the end of the month chartered surveyors were reporting signs that enquiries were again picking up.

The average number of house sales per surveyor stayed the same as last month, at 34 and did not show any signs of being affected by international events. But the average number of houses remaining on estate agents’ books rose by 4% to 75, the highest level since October last year.

Once again a north/south split is appearing in the market, with the south of the country showing a more marked slowdown in prices, possibly reflecting the higher prices in the area, while the Midlands and North held up well given the time of the year.

Chartered surveyors expect to see further falls in sales in the coming months, with 57% more expecting to see a fall against only 4% last month, and 32% in the same period last year. But they are more optimistic about house prices, with only 19% more surveyors expecting to see prices fall than rise.

RICS national housing spokesman Ian Perry said: ‘In the coming months much will depend on the international situation and the global economy. We originally forecast a downturn for the housing market in the autumn because of the expected slowdown in the economy, coupled with recovery in the early part of 2002. We can now expect to see that recovery delayed until the spring or possibly the summer of next year.

‘Continuing low interest rates have helped bolster the market, This has continued to make house purchase attractive to prospective buyers despite rising prices.’

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