BELEAGUERED flat buyers may soon get some satisfaction as speculators who have helped drive up prices in recent months find themselves overextended and have to unload properties at a loss. The Government has made repeated efforts to clamp down on confirmors - people who buy property and resell it at a profit even before the deal has been completed - but, so far, these measures have met with little success. Last week, officials said that speculation had reached its highest level in three years, with 7 per cent of February's completed property deals involving confirmors who flipped their flats for an instant profit. But estate agents forecast the recent downturn in the property market could lead to a number of bargains coming on to the market. Confirmors typically put a 10 per cent deposit on a property and often seek a long completion period - up to nine months - in order to ensure that the property can be sold before the balance comes due. Centaline managing director Shih Wing-ching said many speculators were now left holding properties worth less than they had paid. He said they were reluctant to sell, but would be forced to do so because they could not afford to pay the balances they owed. 'For people who want to buy properties, they might have the chance to get a good bargain from these speculators because some of them have overbought,' Mr Shih said. 'Some will be forced to sell because they don't have the money to make the second payment.' Mr Shih said that in many sectors of the market, speculation was higher than government figures indicated. But he forecast the market's frothiness would begin to subside within the next two to three months. Rising interest rates, new Government measures designed to curb speculation and a more than 50 per cent drop in market activity in the past month were all beginning to hit confirmors, he said. However, these factors would take time to be felt in the market. 'We have figures that show that with properties priced at over $20 million, the percentage of confirmors is actually over 20 per cent,' he said. In lower-price brackets, Centaline's figures accorded with those of the Government. Mr Shih said: 'It's growing. The number of confirmor transactions will increase in the coming months. It will get close to 10 per cent.' A spokesman for Century 21 estate agency said most speculators were now lying low. 'Clever' confirmors still active would probably now concentrate on people reselling former government-subsidised housing as this was likely to be more profitable. She said the level of speculation was not high enough to change the real-estate market and speculators might even help the property sector through a quiet period.