Sector - Finance & Legislation

UK house prices continue to rise at a “robust pace”, says the Halifax

The Halifax has said UK house prices continue to rise at a robust pace, a position echoed by the latest figures of rival lender.

Property values were up 9.7% in February compared with a year ago, but are down slightly in January, says the Halifax, part of Lloyds Banking Group.

The demand for houses is outstripping the number of homes on the market, pushing up house prices, surveys suggest.

According to Halifax, house prices in the three months to end of February were up 3% compared with the previous three months.

The annual rate of change of 9.7% was unchanged, with the average home valued at £209,495. The Halifax added that property prices were down 1.4% in February compared with January.

“Prices continue to rise at a robust pace driven by a significant imbalance between supply and demand. Whilst this position is likely to continue over the coming months, there are some tentative signs that the supply situation may be beginning to improve,” said Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist.

“Further ahead, increasing affordability issues, as house price increases continue to exceed wage growth, are likely to curb housing demand and cause price growth to ease.”

Separately, the latest report from Nationwide reported that house prices rose 0.3% in February from the month before.

That was the same month-on-month rate as in January, but was sharply slower than December’s increase of 0.8%.

However, the annual growth rate picked up to 4.8%, compared with the figure of 4.4% the previous month. Nationwide say that the average price of a property is now £196,930, and that the number of mortgages approved went up sharply in January to nearly 75,000, compared with around 71,000 in December, which was the highest number for two years.

The Nationwide Building Society said house price growth remained “steady”.

Nationwide’s Chief economist, Robert Gardner said: “However, much of the increase is likely to be related to the impending increase in stamp duty on second homes, which is due to take effect in April.

“This is likely to have brought forward a significant number of purchases, which in turn will probably result in a fall back in approvals during the spring [and] summer.”

George Osborne’s announcement in the Autumn Statement means that buy-to-let landlords and owners of second homes in England and Wales will have to pay a 3% surcharge on each stamp duty band.