Estate-agent survey reports first national increase in house prices for 20 months

Average house prices rose across the nation last month, marking the first such move in almost two years, the latest Hometrack survey has found.

The property analytics firm said that nationwide March prices were 0.2% higher than in February.

Head of research Richard Donnell said the first rise in 20 months had come on the back of increased demand - fuelled in part by the end of the Stamp Duty holiday for first-time buyers, coupled with a scarcity of available property.

“While the ending of the Stamp Duty holiday has boosted demand, the driving force behind the national increase was London where prices rose by 0.5% over the month,” he said.

“This is the highest monthly increase in prices in the capital since April 2010.

“The survey results reveal a clear divide in the strength of the market between southern England and the rest of the country.

“In March, prices rose across two fifths of the London market and a fifth of the market in the South East.

“Across the Midlands and northern regions the trend was towards price falls rather than price rises.

“This profile of price changes reflects the underlying balance between supply and demand on a regional basis.”

Donnell expected a “continued firming” in prices over the next few months, but accepted the effects of the Stamp Duty holiday would fade quickly.

“We expect prices to track sideways in the short term with the outlook for the second half of the year hinging on households’ expectations for the economy and their incomes,” he said.

Other findings from the survey of 1,500 estate agents includes:

  • A reported 93% achievement of asking prices, up 0.5% on the proportion reported in January;
  • Average time to sell reported at 11.6 weeks in the Midlands and North, contrasting with 8.4 weeks in London and the South East; and
  • A 13.2% increase in the number of sales agreed.