Gascoigne Halman managing director John Halman discusses the current state of the property market and predicts that house prices will continue to rise gradually...

SOME analysts are saying there has never been a better time to buy a house.

The reason is not that sales prices have fallen but the fact that the prospect of low interest rates in the longer term has brought with it some surprisingly attractive mortgage deals.

According to Bank of England data, a typical £200,000 mortgage is more than £100 a month less expensive than a year ago, and costs are predicted to fall even more over the coming months.

Geraldine Hardman, managing director of our associate company, Gascoigne Halman Private Finance, tells me that two-year fixed rates are available at figures as low as 1.38 per cent, subject to lending criteria. Five-year fixed mortgages are as low as 2.24 per cent. These rates are the best we have seen in many years, and because homeowners are able to lock into a low rate we are seeing an increase in consumer confidence.

It’s so important to be able to forward plan housing expenditure, and these rates allow individuals and families to do just that. It removes the risk – and that brings market stability!

We are also finding that an increasing number of savers are recognising that the buy-to-let market is a safe haven for their money and provides better returns than cash in the bank.

The buy-to-let market has received a further shot in the arm with the new pension reforms.

Our residential lettings division is already seeing a significant number of retirees wishing to use their pension pot to finance their buy-to-let property.

The other encouraging news for the housing market is that, according to figures from Halifax, the number of first-time buyers rose to its highest level in seven years in 2014.

This really important group in the housing market has been buoyed by improved job prospects, the Government’s Help to Buy scheme and improved mortgage rates.

Locally this has resulted in the market for properties priced at up to £500,000 to be especially active, with some pressure on prices in the more popular residential locations.

With significantly fewer properties available than was the case only 12 months ago, choice is limited. Unless the forthcoming general election causes a reduction in confidence, I can only see a continuation in the increase in property prices, albeit gradual.

Happy house hunting!

*As well as being the managing director of Gascoigne Halman, an estate agent with 18 offices in south Manchester, John Halman is the north west regional residential spokesman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).