House prices fall again - how you can protect the value of your home
The average house price has dropped by 1.1% since last year, according to the latest house price survey by Nationwide.
Prices also fell by a minimal 0.1% in January, as the property market entered 2011 with "a whimper rather than a bang," according to Nationwide's chief economist Robert Gardner.
The average house price currently stands at £161,602.
"January's data does little to alter the picture of a sluggish market that has been evident since the summer," says Gardner.
While prices in January only saw a small drop, Gardner adds that quarterly comparisons of house prices is a better measure of any underlying trends and that this data showed a fall of 0.5%. This is consistent with the gradual moderating of prices, that has been happening since the summer 2010.
He expects transaction levels will remain low throughout 2011 and that any movement will be with prices moving sidewards or modestly lower.
"Demand for homes looks to have stabilised, albeit well below the levels prevailing before the crisis. Interest rates remain at historic lows, and labour market conditions have stabilised – both factors that will provide support to the market. However, the continued uncertain outlook for the economy will probably continue to keep many buyers on the sidelines."
New crime website
On top of Nationwide's latest announcements, a new crime mapping website of England and Wales, police.uk has been criticised for its potential to damage house prices further.
The site asks users to type in their postcode. It then reveals the total number of crimes, robberies, violent crime, vehicle crime and anti–social behaviour in a particular area.
It's the most detailed map of its kind, with previous crime data publishing levels across whole council wards.
Policing and Crime minister Nick Herbert says: "We can't sweep crime under the carpet. We have to reveal the truth about what is happening and give the information and the power to the public."
However, Royal Institution of Chartererd Surveyors director David Dalby is wary of the potentially damaging effects to house prices.
"RICS welcomes any improved consumer information which allows homebuyers to make more informed decisions. However, taken out of context these crime statistics could have an effect on house prices.
"It's also worth remembering that information about local levels of crime is already available through environmental searches commissioned by conveyancers as part of the buying process, but only forms one of a huge number of factors taken into account by consumers when deciding where to live."
So how can you protect the value of your home? Here are 5 ways:
1 Keeping up appearances
Everyone has different taste when it comes to home décor but keeping your home in good condition will ensure it doesn't devalue. Ensure carpets aren't too worn and that fixtures and fittings look their best.
2 Make sure everything is in working condition
As well as the finer touches to your home, make sure it's in good working order. If you don't have double glazing, an old boiler or no loft insulation, your draughty home will require a fair bit of work that will decrease its value. Even if you have a newer boiler get it serviced once a year – this costs around £70.
3 Kerb appeal
You don't have to be a green–fingered genius, just keep grass short, weed flower beds and repair any broken gates or fences.
4 Neighbourhood watch
If your road doesn't already have a group, consider setting up one. Being aware of the threat of crime and trying to prevent it will increase your home's value and hopefully stop you becoming a victim to theft.
5 Off-road parking
Depending on space in your front garden, if you don't already have a driveway consider converting one. It may be sad waving goodbye to that patch of green grass but being able to park off–road is a real pluspoint for most homeowners.