Prices rise at fastest rate for two yearsNew figures from the Land Registry have confirmed that house prices in England and Wales rose by 1.7% in 2012; the biggest rise for two years and a sign that the slump in the housing market could be coming to an end.

The Land Registry also confirmed that prices rose in December by 0.8%, taking the value of the average home in England and Wales to £162,080.

The Land Registry findings differ quite significantly from the other two main house price surveys published by the Nationwide and the Halifax; in the year to December 2012 both the Halifax and the Nationwide reported a fall in house prices of 0.30% and 1.00% respectively.

The answer to the differences is likely to lie in the fact that the Land Registry data is based on all housing transactions in England and Wales, whereas the Halifax and Nationwide’s figures are based on their own mortgage lending figures.

The Land Registry figures, which always make interesting reading, also show that the cheapest house sold in December went for just £10,000, whilst the most expensive home was bought for £14 million. The purchasers of the most expensive property would have paid Stamp Duty of £980,000 on their purchase, a massive 98 times the average property value and around six times the value of the average home.

Regional variations

As always the headline figures mask large regional variations.

The reported increase in house prices has been driven in no small part by the London property market, which saw a rise of 8.4% during 2012, and 3.1% in December alone. The average home in London is now worth £371,223, more than double the national average.

This contrasts with the North West of England, which saw the largest annual and monthly falls of 3.5% and 0.9% respectively.

Housing market recovery?

Experts have tentatively speculated that the Land Registry figures might mark a turning point for the housing market, after the large fall in prices following the financial crisis.

In another sign that the worst might be over, the Land Registry also reported that the number of repossessions fell in all areas of England and Wales in October 2012, the latest month figures are available for, compared to the same month in 2011. The largest fall in the rate of repossessions was in the North East of England where they fell by 35%.

However, the number of completed house sales fell by 3% in October 2012, again compared to 12 months previously. Although other data, released since Christmas by the Council for Mortgage Lenders (CML) has pointed to strong growth in the mortgage market in the last quarter of 2012.