House prices rebound after winter fall

HOUSE PRICES last month recorded their biggest increase since September 1997, according to new figures from Nationwide. It was the latest sign that the housing market is recovering from its winter downturn.

"House price inflation could be heading back towards double figures," said Jonathan Loynes, an economist at HSBC Markets.

Nationwide, which publishes one of two monthly house price indices, said prices jumped by 1.5 per cent in March, taking the year-on-year increase to 7.6 per cent. This followed a subdued February, when prices rose by just 0.1 per cent.

Halifax said its March index, published next week, is likely to show a slight increase. Its price figures have been well below Nationwide's for the past two years, and showed a 0.5 per cent drop in February.

David Parry, Nationwide's head of planning, said: "Although spring usually produces an upturn in the housing market, there are tentative signs the recent series of interest-rate cuts have helped boost confidence."

The Easter weekend is a crucial time for the housing market, traditionally bringing a big upturn in sales.

Other indicators have pointed to a revival in the market. Surveys of estate agents and figures on mortgage approvals have both indicated the start of a recovery. In addition, underlying conditions are favourable; mortgage rates are at their lowest for more than 30 years, and properties are affordable by past standards.

However, this month's Budget dealt a blow by abolishing mortgage tax relief from April 2000.It also raised stamp duty on properties priced at above pounds 250,000, which will dampen the top end of the market.

But the biggest question mark over the outlook for house prices remains the length and severity of the economic downturn. "We have had the interest- rate cuts, but nobody has felt the pinch of rising unemployment yet," said Mr Loynes.

Although most forecasters reckon the slowdown will be moderate, few are as optimistic as the Treasury, which is predicting 1 per cent growth this year. Unemployment rose slightly last month, according to the latest official figures.

Even so, the Bank of England is expected to cut rates further. The Monetary Policy Committee could act as soon as next week, according to some analysts.

The average UK house price stands at pounds 68,308 on Nationwide's figures, up from pounds 63,493 a year ago.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Sheridan Maine: Financial Accountant

£150 - £190 Daily Rate: Sheridan Maine: One of London's leading water supplier...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Christine McCleave: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 - £35,000 Annual: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for an exciting ...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor