House prices up 1.3%, says Halifax

Significant regional differences around the UK still apparent

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The Independent Online

House prices between February and April were 1.3 per cent higher than in the previous three months, the fifth consecutive increase, according to Halifax.

The latest figures suggest that house prices increased by 1.1 per cent in April, following rises of 0.5 per cent in February and 0.4 per cent in March.

Commenting, Martin Ellis, housing economist, said: "House prices continue to pick up gradually. Market activity, however, remains subdued by historical standards with the number of mortgage approvals for house purchases which is a leading indicator of completed house sales,easing slightly in the first three months of 2013."

Giles Hannah, managing director of London agency VanHan, said: "It must be remembered that this increase masks significant regional differences. The UK as a whole is seeing modest growth, with areas such as London, Oxford and Henley seeing price rises while Nottingham, Wales and the Midlands have seen price falls.

"London is undoubtedly the big success story and is doing a good job of pulling up the national average. Its residential sales market remains robust with prices continuing to rise. International buyers, particularly from Asia, are fuelling demand for best in-class properties and are snapping up properties at 10 to 14 per cent discounts as a result of the weakness of sterling compared with their own currencies. We have also witnessed a rise in French high-net-worth families relocating to London owing to the increased taxes in France. Holland Park has seen a vast uplift in sales activity and significant house price increases, for example."

Jonathan Harris, director of mortgage broker Anderson Harris, added: "It is surprising that official figures from the Halifax show that mortgage approvals eased slightly in the first quarter of 2013 because that is absolutely not what we are seeing 'on the ground'. Activity has been busier since the start of this year than at any time since the downturn, sending out the positive message that the situation is finally improving. It may take a while for this to feed through into the official numbers but the signs are encouraging: more people feel they can get a mortgage as Funding for Lending pushes down the cost of funding."