House prices up nearly 2%

New figures represent biggest increase since September 2010

Prices of houses in the UK between December and February were
1.9 per cent higher than in the previous three months, according to
Halifax.

The Halifax figures mean that this was the third consecutive increase in prices and was the same as the increase in January. Co-incidentally, they were also 1.9 per cent higher than the same period a year ago.

In February alone, house prices increased by 0.5%, following the fall of 0.3 per cent in January.

Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis said he expected to see a national increase in house prices over 2013.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: "The housing market presents a confused picture. On the one hand, prices continue to rise on a monthly and quarterly basis, according to the Halifax, and on the other, lending fell in the final quarter of last year, according to the Bank of England.

"It is worth remembering that national averages also conceal significant regional differences, with prices falling in parts of the country while rising in others. The north-south divide grows ever wider.

"Lenders continue to cut mortgage rates, undercutting each other almost on a daily basis. While this is good news from the borrower's perspective, particularly those with big deposits, we also need to see some easing of criteria in order to make mortgages more accessible. This is surely the next move for lenders, many of whom tell us they have had enough of a rate war and the pressure to constantly offer the cheapest rates.

"More options at better rates at higher LTVs are filtering through, and we need more of these to support the first-time buyer market."

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