House prices increased for the fourth consecutive month in March, according to housing research company Hometrack.

The overall rise last month, of 0.5%, was boosted by an increase in London of 1.1%. In the past 12 months, house prices have risen by 0.1%, the first annual increase since January 2004.

Hometrack said the national average price was now £162,500.

However, director of research Richard Donnell emphasised the importance of regional variations. He said: "While prices moved 0.4% higher in the South-west, East Anglia and the South-east, growth in all other regions has been far more limited."

Donnell said that prices in the capital had been boosted by a lack of housing coming onto the market. In London the number of properties for sale grew 1% in March while demand grew 10%.

"We expect the divergence in growth between London and the rest to continue over the year ahead," said Donnell.