LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - Asking prices for houses in England and Wales
are likely to rise overall in 2011, British property website Rightmove forecast on Monday, scaling back earlier predictions for a steep fall in prices for the second half of the year.
Rightmove, which says its website is used to market almost 90 percent of homes for sale, predicted that house prices would finish the year with an annual gain of 2 percent, in contrast to its December forecast for a 2-5 percent fall.
Rightmove said asking prices rose 0.6 percent in June after a 1.3 percent rise in May, reaching an average of 240,394 pounds ($390,736), their highest level since an all-time peak of 242,500 pounds struck in May 2008.
Prices are 8.1 percent higher than at the start of the year. Rightmove said that most of this gain was seasonal, but that a stronger labour market and fewer repossessions meant prices would probably fall less in the second half of 2011 than they did in late 2010.
'While we expect new sellers to have to drop their prices over the remainder of the year, we now believe that they will end 2011 slightly higher than they began it,' Rightmove director Miles Shipside said.
Britain's property market activity has been extremely sluggish since the start of the financial crisis, with banks reluctant to lend to homebuyers who lack a big deposit, and many prospective purchasers worried they could lose their job.
Official figures from the government Land Registry show that average prices for completed property transactions were 1.3 percent down on a year ago in April. Rightmove said June asking prices were 1.1 percent up on the year.
($1 = 0.615 British Pounds)
(Reporting by David Milliken) Keywords: BRITAIN PROPERTY/RIGHTMOVE
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