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LONDON-The housing market in England and Wales continues to slow. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ housing survey for the three months to October 2001 reports that the traditionally quiet period in the run up to the festive season looks set to come early this year.

House price inflation fell to its lowest level since January with the difference between chartered surveyors reporting rises and those reporting falls at 24%, down from 39% in September. This is still slightly above the long-term average of 23%.

Enquiries from potential buyers, which had been falling since the summer, stabilised. Completed sales per surveyor rose slightly to 36 from 34 in September, and the number of houses on chartered surveyors’ books fell to 73 from 75 last month.

This meant that the ratio of completed sales to available stock rose in October to 49%, the highest for the last eighteen months.

Across the country price rises continued in most regions, although at a very much reduced rate by comparison with the summer. The two regions which bucked this trend were the South East, where 1% more chartered surveyors reported price falls against those reporting price rises. In London, that difference was 32%, the first recorded fall in prices since August 2000.

Looking ahead, chartered surveyor estate agents expect to see the market continue to slow down, with 61% more expecting sales to fall than rise, against 57% last month. 24% expected to see prices fall rather than rise, against 19% last month. This slow down is in line with seasonal trends and does not indicate a further deterioration in the market.

RICS housing market spokesman, Ian Perry, said: ‘The housing market held up a lot better than many had predicted with price rises slowing down last month rather than falling back. The market will be greatly helped by the recently announced half per cent reduction in interest rates. As a result, chartered surveyors are confident for market prospects in the new year.

‘Nevertheless things will remain sluggish and sellers will need to price realistically to achieve sales over the next few months.’

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