HalifaxFor people looking for signs that property prices are bouncing back, the latest Halifax House Price Index figures will be encouraging.

The data released today, by the UK’s largest mortgage lender, shows house prices rose by 0.20% in March; this comes on the back of a 0.5% increase in February.

Over the course of the past 12 months the Halifax report that prices have risen by 1.1%.

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The figures from the Halifax are broadly in agreement with those released last week by the Nationwide, who reported prices remained unchanged in March and rose by 0.8% over the past 12 months.

The quarterly change in house prices, which many experts believe is the most accurate measure as it smooth’s out monthly fluctuations, showed an increase of 1.2% on the last three months of 2012.

According to the Halifax the average home in now worth £163,943, almost exactly the same as the figures given by the other two major housing surveys from the Nationwide and Land Registry.

Commenting on the figures Martin Ellis, Housing Economist at the Halifax, said: “The housing market continues to show signs of modest improvement. Prices in the first three months of 2013 were 1.2% higher than in the preceding quarter (fourth consecutive increase).

Prices were 1.1% higher than in the first three months of 2012. House sales also continued to rise, according to the latest industry-wide figures.”

Looking forward to the rest of the year, Ellis said: “Weak income growth and continuing below-trend economic growth are likely to remain significant constraints on housing demand during the remainder of this year. Overall, we expect to see a modest increase in UK house prices during 2013.”

Mixed signals

Other data released this week shows a mixed picture for the housing market.

In a further sign that activity may be picking up, figures from HMRC show house sales increased by 5% between January and February, with sales in February 2013 up by 10% on the same month last year.

However, the number of mortgage approvals for homebuyers, actually fell by 5% from January to February, to their lowest level since September 2012.

First time buyers

Of course not everyone will be happy with the news that house prices are rising.

Since the credit crunch, first time buyers have found it harder to get on the housing ladder, with banks and building societies tightening their lending criteria and increasing the size of deposit needed by first time buyers.

Many housing experts will hope the new Help to Buy scheme, coming on top of the Funding for Lending Scheme, will help both first time buyers and indeed other home movers over the remainder of the year; only time will tell whether these schemes make it easier for people to get mortgage finance and therefore give a boost to the housing market.

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