Confused about what's happening in the housing market? To make it a bit clearer, here are some key trends to watch out for...

THE UK housing market has been going through a confusing time lately, with buyers and sellers trying to work out what uncertainty surrounding Brexit will mean for property sales.

But while all isn't yet clear, some housing reports have been giving clues about current market trends.

To get a snapshot of what's been happening in recent weeks, and what might happen in the coming months, here's a look at what some experts and commentators have been saying...

Competition between mortgage lenders to attract first-time buyers has been increasing

A mortgage price war has been particularly intense in the first-time buyer end of the market, according to Moneyfacts.co.uk. But first-time buyers will still need to make sure they can meet lenders' criteria to get a loan.

The number of homes on estate agents' books is still close to record lows

If you're looking for a home, you may not find too much choice - although of course, this will vary depending on where you live.

Average stock levels on estate agents' books were close to a record low in March, a monthly survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) recently found.

There were slightly over 42 properties on average per branch in March - edging up from just under 42 in February. February's figure was a record low for this part of the Rics survey, which started in April 1994.

Homes are taking 19 weeks to sell on average

It now takes 19 weeks on average for a home to sell, from it going on the market to the sale being completed, according to Rics.

House prices across the UK generally are expected by some experts to edge down in the coming months - but over the longer term the trend is still upwards

With uncertainty still hanging over the market and recent general signs of prices drifting downwards, Rics says this indicates a modest fall in house prices over the coming months.

But not everywhere is experiencing price falls - in Scotland and Northern Ireland Rics says house prices have continued to grow.

Meanwhile, surveyors expect prices to generally be higher in 12 months' time - with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales leading the way in terms of surveyors' expectations.

It's not all about Brexit - house price growth is still influenced by what's happening in your local area

The strength or weakness of a housing market can depend on all sorts of factors - such as the strength of demand and the supply of properties in a particular area, and how close an area is to popular schools.

While London and the surrounding south east of England have been seeing a slowdown, other parts of the UK have been affected by the impact of other factors.

For example, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) recently said there has been some strong house price growth in south east Wales "likely linked to the abolition of the Severn Bridge tolls".

Demand is building in the 'prime' property markets

The prime housing market, which includes homes in the top 5% price bracket, held up "better than expected" in the first quarter of 2019, according to real estate adviser Savills.

There is a growing pool of demand developing among buyers who are taking "a wait and see approach", it said. This growing demand from buyers sitting in the sidelines could eventually mean sales pick up when the political situation becomes clearer.

Savills says the prime market in Edinburgh has been performing particularly well recently, while Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Bath have all seen prime property prices fall annually.

And in the meantime, some sellers may need to watch out for something called 'gazundering'

Gazundering, where a buyer lowers their offer for a home at the last minute, is becoming a growing problem, according to a recent report.

Some 45% of people surveyed think gazundering is a serious problem, up from 40% when similar research was carried out last year, the report from campaign group the HomeOwners Alliance, BLP Insurance and Resi.co.uk architects found.

Gazundering can happen just before a sale is set to go through, with sellers sometimes feeling under pressure to accept the lower price to stop the deal collapsing.

Yeovil Express:

SOLD: Handing over house keys. Picture: PA Photo/iStock

FIVE TIPS TO GET YOUR SAVINGS INTO SHAPE

Spring is finally upon us, and when many of us are spring cleaning and decluttering our homes, it may also be a good time to polish up on our finances.

To help, Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director for Fidelity International, offers five top tips to get your savings into shape:

1. Pay yourself first.

Whether it's saving more into your pension, or starting a regular investment, make a commitment to set some of your hard-earned cash aside for later use. While savers can put up to £20,000 into an Isa annually, not everyone will have that much spare cash. For those with smaller savings, investing little and often into an Isa is still beneficial as this will grow into a sizeable pot over time and is tax efficient.

2. Simplify your finances.

Whether you're trying to keep track of several pensions with previous employers, or you've got several different Isa accounts or too many funds in your investment portfolio, it may be time to simplify your finances. If you're unsure how to do this, perhaps consider chatting to a financial adviser.

3. Save and invest without cutting back on what you'll miss.

Try to slim down your outgoings by cutting back on what you don't use. Do you really use that gym membership? Is your TV package worth the monthly cost?

4. Stay up-to-speed.

Keeping up with important issues and getting to grips with how they affect you will put you in better control of your finances.

5. Review and rebalance when necessary.

Once you've got your savings and investments in shape, make sure you keep them that way. This may mean adjusting how much you're investing and what you're investing in, if perhaps your investment portfolio no longer matches the level of risk you're comfortable with or isn't meeting the saving goals you have in mind.

Committing to an annual review will ensure you keep on top of your portfolio and know exactly how your investments are performing over time.