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Marked shift in UK homeowner preferences

London: British homeowners are increasingly upbeat about the housing market and are more willing to sell than at any time since April 2011, a survey by mortgage lender Halifax showed.

The net balance between those thinking it is a good time to sell in the next 12 months and those that deem it a bad time doubled in the first quarter of 2014 to +24 compared with the fourth quarter of 2013.

It was the highest level for this measure since the survey started in April 2011 and was a significant improvement on the first quarter of last year when the balance was -42.

Record low interest rates and government-backed schemes have fuelled a rebound in the housing market, with prices now growing at almost 10 per cent a year. These have also been exacerbated by a shortage of supply and foreign interest in London properties as investments.

Britons’ greater willingness to sell could ease the pressure somewhat by increasing the number of available homes. “The increase in optimism is partly due to stronger house prices and this shift could provide a much needed increase in the supply of properties available for sale during the rest of the year,” said Craig McKinlay, mortgages director at Halifax.

Sentiment towards buying remained relatively stable at +34 compared with +35 in the fourth quarter of 2013, the survey showed. Seventy-one per cent of British adults expected the average British house price to rise over the next year, the survey said.

Policymakers have downplayed the view that the housing market is overheating but say they are “vigilant” with regards to those risks. If prices threaten to get out of control, the Bank of England has said it will address it by curbing mortgage lending directly before resorting to interest rates for fear that a premature rise would stifle the broader economic recovery.