The number of agreed house sales jumped sharply this month as sellers dropped their prices to shift homes which have been lingering on the market, a study found.
Overall, house prices drifted lower in October, with a 0.1% fall for the third month in a row, despite a slight increase in the number of new buyers registering with estate agents, property analyst Hometrack said.
Prices were flat in London and fell across the rest of England and Wales. The West Midlands saw the biggest price fall with a 0.5% drop, but it also recorded the second biggest increase in sales.
The number of agreed sales rose by 9.2% across the country in the strongest uplift seen since the spring, with Wales and the West Midlands seeing strong sales increases of 18% and 17.6% respectively.
Hometrack said it expects estate agents to continue pushing through as many sales as possible towards the end of the year as demand from buyers tails off.
Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said the big jumps in sales were mainly down to sellers re-pricing homes that have been on the market for a while to a level where sales can take place, rather than a significant increase in demand from buyers.
Mr Donnell said that year-on-year, house prices are currently registering the lowest level of price falls for two years, with a 0.4% drop.
This was put down to a strong spring market, when the ending of a stamp duty concession for first-time buyers prompted a rush of sales, as well as prices starting to firm up in the northern regions.
Mr Donnell said that stamp duty rates are acting as a barrier to “much-needed” sales and any recovery in the housing market will hinge on how well household incomes recover.
He said: “The foundation of any national and sustainable recovery in the housing market rests on growth in the wider economy and household incomes. Any recovery will most likely start to be seen in transaction volumes rather than prices.”