property jigsawImagine the scene – a darkened room, an old crone with a shawl over her head and the crystal ball centred on the table.

Draw up a chair whilst I (the old crone) gaze into the future….

First to say is that the omens are better than for a long time.

The UK property market is picking up, according to figures from the Bank of England.

In November the number of new mortgages approved for home buyers, but not yet lent, rose to 54,036 – the highest November figure for three years.

This suggest the Bank’s Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) is encouraging more lending to home buyers.

The number of approvals is regarded as a good indicator of forthcoming trends and suggests that sales will keep on rising in the coming months.

Both the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors have predicted that FLS will help to revive lending and sales this year.

This pickup in business accords with my own experience. Since the crash in 2008, business has tailed off as Christmas approached – but not this year. Both sellers and purchasers were still active and this is bodes well.

Housing is all about confidence and this last year has been remarkable for the sustained level that I have seen.

One reason for this may have been the decrease in EU scares. The spectre of Euro collapse is still there. It is, however, in the shadows and the markets seem to have renewed confidence that the EU will become more and more a centralised economy where the periphery cannot spend, spend, spend as they used to.

Whether this European “vision” is something that we want to be a part of is a question for politicians and not for this column but the absence of crisis is producing something of a feelgood factor in the property market at the moment.

Surveyors play a key role in the property market and their latest report from December predicted that:-

• Housing transactions to climb to the best level since the onset of the credit crunch.
• Prices to post modest gains helped by an increase in mortgage finance.
• Housing starts to remain well short of projections of household formation

These are UK wide predictions and I cannot say that I agree with all of them but, in general, they reflect the confidence in the market that I’m talking about

My particular caveat is about prices. I think they will continue to fall. The UK wide picture is very much skewed by London. There are large inflows of cash from outside the UK and these tend to drive up prices in London. Since the figures concerned are very big, they mask the picture for mere mortals such as us, way up in the North.

I saw a headline in the Press and Journal saying that prices had gone up. This was information from the Highland Solicitors Property Centre. Unfortunately, for us, most of HSPC properties are in Inverness. Inverness always does well as there is very much, these days, a centralising tendency and this sucks in jobs from the fringes. I am afraid that what happens in Inverness is completely irrelevant to what is happening here.

So what does the crystal ball tell me? It is smoky and unclear but I think I see that: –

• It will become easier to sell your home in 2013
• Prices will continue to fall but perhaps not at the rate we have seen recently.
• Prospects for buyers will continue to be good. The supply of mortgages will continue to increase.

Happy New Year!