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London home-sellers cut prices by most since 2009 - Rightmove

By David Milliken
FILE PHOTO - Property sale signs are seen outside of a group of newly built houses in west London, Britain, November 23, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) - The prices that London home-sellers are seeking for their properties fell by the most since the financial crisis this month, at a time when prices in most of the rest of Britain are rising, industry figures showed on Monday.

London's once red-hot housing market has slowed for the past year due to a double hit from higher purchase taxes on expensive homes and the June 2016 Brexit vote, which hurt demand from foreign buyers and raised fears of big job losses in the capital's financial industry.

Rightmove, Britain's biggest property website, said the average asking price for a home in London this month was 600,926 pounds ($822,728), 3.5 percent lower than a year before and the biggest drop since June 2009.

Most of the rest of Britain saw year-on-year increases in asking prices of 4 percent or more, and the average asking price in Britain was just under 300,000 pounds.

"Early indicators of activity in this year's housing market show that demand remains robust," Rightmove said.

There have been other signs of a slowing in London's housing market. Mortgage lender Nationwide said earlier this month that prices in the capital fell by 0.5 percent in 2017, their first full-year fall since 2009.

However, home ownership remains out of reach for many would-be buyers in London. Initial mortgage repayments for a typical first home in the city represent more than 60 percent of average take-home pay, double the proportion elsewhere in Britain. And a 10 percent deposit can easily require more than a year's salary in savings - or help from richer family members.

Rightmove said finance minister Philip Hammond's decision in November to scrap purchase taxes for most first-time buyers, along with a shortage of homes to buy, helped to offset the drag from slow wage growth and an uncertain political outlook.

Unlike some other indicators, Rightmove's data showed prices fell most in inner London suburbs - where they were 7 percent lower than a year ago - rather than the prime central London areas favoured by many super-rich international buyers.

Prices were flat in central London and outer suburbs.

Separate data from property group LSL Property Services gave a fairly similar picture for December, though national price growth was more subdued than in Rightmove's figures. LSL showed price falls in London were steepest in central boroughs.

LSL said the gap between price trends in London and the rest of Britain was the widest in three years.

"London is largely out of step with the rest of England and Wales, where the market remains broadly positive," LSL said.

Rents showed the opposite pattern. Estate agents Countrywide said London recorded the biggest rise in rents for new tenants in England, up 3.2 percent on the year in December and only just pipped by increases in Scotland. Outside London, rents increased by an average of 2.0 percent.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)