House price growth hits four year high
The average house price rose 4.3 per cent annually to £226,600 in January, the sharpest growth recorded since April 2017, the Zoopla house price index showed.
Compared to December, this was a 0.3 per cent increase.
Demand for properties also grew 12.4 per cent year-on-year, boosted by a return of first-time buyers to the market due to the improvement in high loan to value (LTV) mortgage availability.
First-time buyer demand uplifted five per cent compared to Q4, after dropping to a four-year low last year.
According to Zoopla, those purchasing their first home accounted for just 31 per cent of prospective buyers in 2020.
This drop in first-time buyers coincided with a rise of cash buyers and investors which rose to a share of 30 per cent last year, the highest proportion since 2008.
Additionally, the higher demand resulted in a 10.1 per cent increase in agreed sales during the month, suggesting momentum in the market remained strong.
The increase in demand was not matched by available stock as the new supply of homes fell 14.5 per cent year-on-year while the overall number of available properties declined 13.8 per cent.
Zoopla suspected this was because sellers were putting a hold on plans to limit the number of buyers coming into their homes for viewings during the lockdown.
Sustained buyer appetite in Q1, availability of mortgages for first-time buyers and a continued desire to move to a larger home or outside space will support activity for the first half of the year, Zoopla said.
This will then ease in light of challenging economic conditions, with house prices rising one per cent over 2021, it predicted.
Grainne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, said: “The strong bounce in demand seen at the start of the year has been further boosted by increased numbers of first-time buyers active in the market.
“Many of these buyers will be taking advantage of the increased number of home loans now available for purchasers with smaller deposits, and most will be less concerned about the ending of the stamp duty holiday on 31 March.
“First-time buyers have no property to sell, so their increased activity in the market is further pushing up buyer demand ahead of supply.
“As the growth in demand continues to outstrip the supply of homes, it puts more upwards pressure on prices.”