House prices up in March
Annual house price growth accelerated in March to 5.7% in March, according to Nationwide, which marks the strongest pace of growth for a year.
The Building Society noted a monthly rise of 0.8% in average prices between February and March, taking the average property price to £200,251.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “There has been a pickup in housing market activity in recent months, with the number of housing transactions and mortgage approvals rising strongly. This is likely to have been driven, at least in part, by the changes to stamp duty on second homes, where buyers have brought forward purchases in order to avoid the additional tax liabilities.
“The pace of house price growth may moderate again now the stamp duty changes haven taken effect. However, it is possible that the recent pattern of strong employment growth, rising real earnings, low borrowing costs and constrained supply will keep the demand/supply balance tilted in favour of sellers and maintain pressure on price growth in the quarters ahead.”
North South divide worsens
Regional house prices maintained the same broad trends as in recent years, with southern regions continuing to record significantly stronger rates of annual price growth, further widening regional disparities.
Garner explained: “Overall, the pace of house price growth generally moderates as you move from the south to the north of the country, with the North of England and Scotland actually recording modest house price declines, even though prices remain well below pre-crisis levels in those regions.”