March house price dip smallest since June 2010

LONDON Tue Apr 10, 2012 7:43am BST

Houses are reflected in a door knob on a street in London March 13, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Houses are reflected in a door knob on a street in London March 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - House prices declined at the slowest pace since June 2010 in March, helped by a better economic outlook and buying ahead of the expiry of a stamp duty exemption, a survey showed.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' (RICS)seasonally adjusted house price balance rose to -10 from -13 in February, data showed on Tuesday, beating economists' forecasts for a tick-up to -12. Prices continued to edge down in all areas of Britain except London.

"It is possible that surveyors, as with financial markets, are now beginning to factor in less economic downside risk going forward," RICS said.

Exemption for first-time buyers from a land transaction tax on any home worth less than 250,000 pounds, which expired late last month, and unusually warm weather, which boosted property viewings, also provided temporary support to the housing market.

Surveyors' predictions for future prices across Britain remained flat.

"There has been a gentle increase in activity across the market in the early part of the year, but it remains to be seen whether this can continue, given the changes in the budget and ongoing problems affecting the economy," said RICS Chief Economist Simon Rubinsohn.

Britons have taken a hammering from a combination of the government's austerity measures aimed at cutting the budget deficit, prices rising faster than wages, and the relatively higher cost of credit from banks compared to previous years.

(Reporting by Olesya Dmitracova; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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