House prices rise for third month in a row

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The Independent Online

Hopes that the long decline in property values may soon draw to a close were raised yesterday with the release of the latest Nationwide house price data.

The Nationwide reported that house prices rose by 1.3 per cent during July, the third rise in a row and the fourth in five months. Optimist also looked to the acceleration in this upward movement in property values, an improvement on June's increase of 1 per cent. The average British homestead's value has risen by 7.5 per cent from the nadir in February of £147,746 - to some £158,871 now.

On an annual basis, prices are still lower than a year ago, but again the pace of decline appears to be moderating; it is down to 6.2 per cent now, against -17.6 per cent in February. More encouraging news earlier this week from the land Registry and bank of England data suggesting a modest rise in mortgage advances added to an upbeat set of news this week.

However some analysts were urging caution on the latest data. Howard Archer, UK economist at Global Insight commented: "While it looks increasingly likely that February marked the trough in house prices, we suspect that they will be prone to relapses over the coming months and we certainly do not think that a sharp sustained upward trend in house prices is in the process of developing. Significantly, despite recent improvement, housing market activity is still at a level consistent with falling prices."

Others also pointed to a range of special factors that cast doubt on the reliability of the run of apparently good data: opportunistic buyers with large cash deposits; pent up demand from those desperate to buy; and a constriction of supply as homeowners rent out rather than sell their properties, leaving an extremely thin market. Meanwhile, and less encouragingly, the GfK/NOP Consumer Confidence Index was flat during July.

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