The Halifax says that property prices went up in October by 1.2%! And so triggers a helpful headline in today’s Daily Express about a house price ‘surge’.

The Nationwide said that by their reckoning, prices rose by a more meagre 0.4% in October, a figure which leaves the year to date in positive territory for the first time in six months. The annual indicator is that values are some 0.8% higher than this time in 2010. Their version of an average house price now stands at £165,650.

So, it’s all go again in the housing market then.

However…

Amongst the celebratory headlines and the glass chinking that has welcomed a return to price rise normality, there are some rather contrsting statistics out there too. That’s the trouble with having ten or so indecese that report their view on the market each month. Concensus is not a likelihood.

So here’s the bad news of late. Today, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reports that most of their members state that prices are falling. This trend in the RICS has increased in percentage terms since September. And the estate agency branches under their umbrella also report that they are selling just five properties per month each, typically.

London, as ever, is the exception where it knows no bounds in terms of buoyancy, fuelled by a monetary cocktail of City bonuses and Chinese, Russian and Middle Eastern buyers.

Further less than good news in property world is that HM Land Registry, which records the prices of all actual sales above £40,000 (not just mortgage applications on perhaps a regionally biased geographic basis), announced last week that prices fell 2.6% between August and September. Some contrast to the Halifax figures.

The regional variation reported by HM Land Registry is distinct. Whilst the North West has, at last, seen a rise in value of 1% month on month, the North East saw a drop of 3.9%. Experts will no doubt soon be commentating on the Pennine Divide (you heard it here first).

So what does it all mean?

We have no idea. There are so many contrasting and contradictory statistics published now that it is impossible to see exactly what is going on, particularly as the media pick and choose ‘averages’ and ‘national’ numbers to fit a good headline. Our approach is a cautious one. It’s certain that prices are not crashing but that they are not ‘surging’ either.

House Price Indexes are pretty pointless in the real world. If you’re not selling then you won’t much care really either way but if you are, it’s whether you are getting viewers through your door and offers are being made that counts. Not the bean counting of an economist sat in Swindon or within the DCLG in Victoria. Or the RICS, Hometrack, Savills etc.

One thing is for sure and that is that the market is still fragile. Volumes are low and buyers are choosy. And they’re ever resourceful in so far as finding information on local house prices. That’s the internet for you.

Price accurately using comparable properties that have actually sold locally rather than those that have languished on the market for months and are buyer will walk your pathway. ‘Go large’ on price and your property will simply be overlooked in favour of an alternative that is cheaper. Rightmove continue to say that 70% of all properties listed for sale in the UK have remained unsold because they are overpriced.

For the record, the ‘average’ of all the current house price indexes is about zero. That’s about right we think.

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