House prices fall after 16 months of rising

St Albans, Cambridge and Belfast all matched or bettered London's year-on-year price rise 

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The Independent Online

UK house prices fell by 0.2 per cent in September, according to Nationwide's house price data, the first drop in their figures after 16 consecutive monthly price increases.

Overall, annual house price growth slowed to 9.4 per cent, down from 11 per cent in August, putting the average price of a house now at £188,374.

Nationwide's report follows Hometrack's figures last week which indicated zero house price growth in September for first time in 19 months.

According to Nationwide, all areas of the UK showed increases in prices though there was significant variation.

Heading the cites and towns with the highest growth is St Albans which has seen a 24 per cent increase over the last year to see the average home price in the popular Hertfordshire city reach £479,497, a faster pace than London's.

Annual house price growth in London slowed from nearly 26 per cent between April and June, to 21 per cent between July and September, though the average of £401,072 is still a record high. Robert Gardner, Nationwide's Chief Economist, said that in the UK as whole, excluding London, prices are less than one per cent above their pre-crisis 2007 peak.

The capital's price growth was matched by Cambridge (average price £423,904) and Belfast (£188,240), although within London, Camden has seen prices rise by 42 per cent year-on-year  to £884,103. Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest have all seen a 30 per cent increase in prices.

Newcastle was named the worst-performing city, with a four per cent annual price increase taking average values there to £182,506.

"Such a modest month-on-month dip gives us few clues as to whether the runaway growth has exhausted itself or just taken a break," said Andy Hatoum, co-founder of the property search engine Placebuzz.com. " In some areas house prices are topping out, and this is clearly injecting a degree of volatility to the national figures.

"While it’s far too early to call the top of the market, it’s clear that the exceptional rates of growth we’ve seen this year can’t continue. Demand is becoming more broad-based, and buyers more sensible in what they offer."

Nationwide's report also shows that property values in Scotland have risen just over five per cent in the last 12 months, meaning that the average price there is £142,288. Prices in Wales have risen by a similar figure to £144,096.

However, Robert Gardner said that the outlook  for the property market for the rest of 2014 was still 'uncertain' and that there have been signs from estate agents that demand from potential buyers may be cooling.

"In London, which sped off of the blocks at the start of the year, the market is composing itself after an energetic few months and we’ve seen house price inflation start to ease back," said David Newnes, director of Reeds Rains and Your Move estate agents. "A new ‘Mansion Tax’ has been talked about in recent times. But in areas of the country like London, which has seen such vigorous house price growth, many of those who would be caught in any ‘Mansion Tax’ net would be ordinary working people owning a family home."

Rachel Fisher, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, added: "Despite this slight dip in house prices, buying your own home is still way out of reach for thousands of people. We are in the midst of a housing crisis which will only get worse for this generation and the next if action isn’t taken now.

"It’s no wonder that only one in four people think their housing situation will improve in the next 10 years and seven in 10 think the Government should play a role in improving accessibility to housing. With so many now locked out of home ownership and struggling with rents, we are calling on all the main political parties to end the housing crisis within a generation."

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