House prices at highest level for a year

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House prices rose for the fifth month in a row during September, pushing property values back up to levels last seen 12 months ago, research showed today.

The average cost of a UK home rose by 0.9 per cent during the month to £161,816, building on gains of 1.4 per cent in both July and August, according to Nationwide Building Society.



The latest increase left house prices broadly in line with where they were a year ago, making September the first month in which annual house price inflation has not been negative since March 2008.



Property prices have now risen by 3.8 per cent during the past three months, compared with the previous three-month period, the biggest increase on this measure for five years.



They are also 4.1 per cent higher than they were at the start of the year, although they are still 13.5 per cent below their October 2007 peak.



But Nationwide warned that house prices were unlikely to continue to increase at their current rate, particularly due to the ongoing problems in the mortgage market and rising unemployment.



Martin Gahbauer, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "The further increase in house prices is very much consistent with improvements in a broad range of economic and financial indicators over the last few months, all of which suggest that the most intense phase of the recession and financial crisis has probably passed.



"However, given that the housing market still faces considerable headwinds in the form of high unemployment, restrictive credit conditions and an impending withdrawal of the stamp duty holiday, it would be surprising to see house prices continuing to increase at the very strong rate seen in recent months."



He added that transaction volumes were still running at around half the level they were at before the downturn, and at a level that would usually be too low for house price rises.



He said at the current rate at which mortgage approvals for house purchase were rising, it would take another 18 months for sales volumes to recover to their pre-downturn level.



All regions of the UK saw house price rises during the third quarter of the year, compared with the previous three months.



Northern Ireland saw the biggest quarter-on-quarter change at 9.7 per cent, followed by the South West at 4.9 per cent and the outer Metropolitan region of London at 4.7 per cent, while in the outer South East prices were 4.1 per cent higher.



But the average cost of a home edged ahead by only 0.1 per cent in Wales during the third quarter, while price growth was also slower in Yorkshire and the Humberside and the East Midlands at 1.8 per cent and 1.9 per cent respectively.



On an annual basis, house prices in Scotland are now only 1 per cent lower than they were a year ago, while in North Ireland they are 8 per cent down.

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