The new year has seen a surge in 'window shoppers' for new homes, with the number of inquiries from those seeking to look at properties more than doubling even as actual sales stay near record lows.

Rightmove, the online home sales portal, has reported a surge in activity, with inquiries rising to 429,560 in four weeks to January 10 from 199,762 in the same period last year.

The level of interest in home buying came in spite of more evidence of a sustained fall in prices into 2009, with an average asking price drop of 1.9% in the month to January 10.

Supply remains constrained, according to Rightmove, as potential sellers are discouraged by the falling market. There were 43,000 new listings in the month to January 10, compared with 89,000 in the same period last year. Rightmove said the extra cost of mandatory Home Information Packs might persuade homeowners to withhold property from the market.

Financial Times, The Times