Houses in East Anglia rose in price by 4 per cent in the last quarter of 1998 alone, averaging pounds 70,374. Prices in the South-east rose by 3.2 per cent, while Greater London saw inflation of just 1.5 per cent. Northern regions suffered house price deflation in the last three months of 1998, with prices dropping 1.5 per cent in the North and 0.7 per cent in the North-west.
Halifax said the underlying trend continued to be one of modestly rising inflation, in spite of recent dips in the price of the average home. In December, prices throughout the UK fell 0.1 per cent to an average of pounds 73,124.
In the year to December 1998, the average price of a UK home rose by 5.5 per cent. Halifax predicts prices will still rise by 4 per cent in the coming year.
Estate agents normally expect a lull in the property market before Christmas. But activity on the high street was even slower than expected at the end of last year, lenders said.
Homeowners in Northern Ireland have benefited from the biggest annual price rises. There the average homeowner gained pounds 6,000 last year, as the mean price rose 12.2 per cent to pounds 61,836. The North-South divide, where prices in the South race ahead of the rest of the country, has begun to close. But the gap is still evident. Prices in Greater London - where the average home costs pounds 110,961 - rose by 8.2 per cent over the year, compared to 2 per cent further north.