House prices post first monthly rise for two years


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The Independent Online

House prices have climbed over the month for the first time in almost two years.

Figures published today by Hometrack will quench fears that the end of the stamp duty holiday would hit the housing market hard.

Concerns were fuelled last week by figures from Nationwide building society that suggested house prices had dropped 1 per cent in March, the biggest fall in two years.

That fall shocked some commentators, but they will be heartened by Hometrack’ s figures, which are based on a survey of 1,500 estate agents and surveyors. The property analytics business said increased demand and activity and a scarcity of housing for sale, helped prices rise 0.2 per cent in March.

The increase was the first positive move in the survey for 20 months. Richard Donnell, director of research at the firm, said: “All the evidence points to a continuing firming in prices in the next few months as demand increases and supply remains repressed.” In fact, the bulk of positive data came out of London, which posted an increase of 0.5 per cent over the month, the highest monthly increase in the capital since April 2010.

That news confirms the growing North-South divide in the property market. In  March, prices rose across two-fifths of the London market and a fifth of the market in the South-east.

Meanwhile, across the Midlands and in the North the trend was the opposite, with price falls being experienced once again.

Data on the average time it takes to sell a property confirm the growing divide between north and south. In the North and Midlands, it takes almost three months – 11.4 weeks – to sell. In Southern England, the time falls to 8.4 weeks while in London properties shift in less than six weeks on average. “A strong seasonal uplift in demand has put upward pressure on prices against a backdrop of low sales volumes and a lack of housing for sale,” said Mr Donnel