May house price balance hits 5-month high

LONDON (Reuters) - House prices rose last month at their fastest rate so far this year, driven by price gains in London and southeast England, a survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors showed on Tuesday.

RICS’s price balance -- which represents the difference between the percentage of surveyors reporting price rises and price falls -- rose to a seasonally adjusted +22 in May from +19 in April, upwardly revised from an initial estimate of +17.

This was the highest reading since January, and above the consensus forecast of +15. However, surveyors were less bullish about the pace of future price rises as the amount of property for sale had risen sharply due to a relaxation of home sale rules by Britain’s new government.

One of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition’s first acts was to remove the requirement for sellers to provide ‘homebuyer information packs’ which provided legal details about a property.

RICS said its members expected the abolition of HIPs to increase the supply of property by 15 percent.

The survey showed price rises in London, southeast, north and northwest England as well as Scotland, whereas prices fell in Northern Ireland, Wales, Yorkshire and Humberside and the West Midlands.

British house prices have rebounded by around 10 percent over the past year, after sliding by as much as 20 percent since a peak in late 2007.

Reporting by David Milliken; editing by Patrick Graham