PROPERTY specialists are split as to whether residential prices will rise during the next quarter, according to a survey by financial news agency Knight-Ridder. But the majority of companies expect business prospects to remain steady despite concerns about the stock market. Around 400 companies were canvassed for their views in the quarterly business confidence survey. Views about which way the property market would move were evenly split with 38 per cent of respondents predicting further falls and 38 per cent expecting a rise. Twenty-four per cent of respondents expected prices to remain stable. Two-thirds of property specialists believed office rents would remain stable while the remainder expected a rise. One respondent said: 'Rents will increase marginally given the slight increase in activity in the past two weeks and the lack of supply.' Another said: 'The reason for the increase in leasing activity is that more decision makers are back in town after the summer break.' The main concerns for those in the financial sector are rising wages and operating costs. Seventy-one per cent of respondents expected a rise in their pay budget - 13 per cent more than for the last quarter. There was also an almost unanimous belief that interest rates would rise. Retailers expected continued growth in sales and consumer confidence, with business prospects being steady to good. But rising optimism was slightly diminished by concerns about rising rents. One respondent said: 'Rents will be 50 per cent higher at renewal time in some prime retail areas. It is hard for sales to keep up with that kind of growth.'