The latest house price index figures from the Halifax gives just the spur the market may need as the spring sales season gets into full swing.
They show a 1.5 per cent rise in March taking the annual house price inflation rate to 2.7 per cent; the average price of a home is now a record £227,871.
“House prices in the three months to March were largely unchanged compared with the previous quarter. Activity levels, like house price growth, have softened compared with a year ago. Mortgage approvals are down compared to 12 months ago, whilst home sales have remained flat in the early months of the year” explains Russell Galley, managing director of Halifax.
“This lack of direction in the housing market is in stark contrast to the continuing strength of the UK jobs market. The unemployment rate is now the joint lowest since 1975 and in the three months to January there were 402,000 more people in work compared to a year” he continues.
These figures contrast with those released last week by the Nationwide which says house prices grew 2.1 per cent year-on-year in March, slower than the 2.2 per cent increase seen in February and well below some analysts’ expectations.
On a monthly basis, Nationwide says house prices dropped unexpectedly by 0.2 per cent in March – the second successive monthly drop following February’s 0.4 per cent decrease.
Former RICS residential chairman and London agent Jeremy Leaf strikes a note of caution about the apparently more optimistic Halifax data
“When you examine [the figures] in more detail one appreciates that the increase in property prices is more to do with a shortage of stock, low mortgage approvals, and subdued activity rather than any great change in the market.
‘What the results do show is that those who are actually looking to buy at this time of year are obliged to pay higher prices for properties in the areas they want to live in order to get what they want, which is what we are also finding on the ground.”
Russell Quirk, chief executive of Emoov, says: “Although market activity over the first quarter has remained fairly flat, there are signs that momentum is beginning to build and we should see a degree of stability return over the coming quarter. The current affordability of mortgages, coupled with a reduction in unemployment and an insufficient level of housing stock, will continue to stimulate the market and price growth should exceed wider predictions over the latter part of the year.”