House prices in UK end year at record high


House prices have ended the year at another record high, reaching £196,999 on average across the UK in December, according to Nationwide Building Society's index.

Nationwide said the gap between average house prices in the North of England and those in the South has also widened by £23,000 during 2015, as southern regions have continued to out-perform the rest of the country. 

Across the whole of the UK, property values increased by 4.5% over the year to December, accelerating from annual growth of 3.7% recorded in November. December also saw prices increase by 0.8% month-on-month.

All regions across the UK apart from Scotland have seen house prices increase over the last year. Property values in Scotland recorded a 1.9% annual decrease, taking the average house price there to £139,801.

For the fifth year running, London has seen the strongest price growth, with a 12.2% annual increase in 2015 taking the average property value to £456,229.

In Northern Ireland, house prices have increased by 6.5% annually, to reach around £128,481.

Wales has seen average house prices edge up by 0.7% annually, pushing the typical value there to £142,622.

Yorkshire and Humberside was the weakest-performing region in England, with average house prices there up by 0.4% annually, taking them to £143,390.

Nationwide said that house price growth in southern England has been consistently outstripping that in the North for more than six and-a-half years.

House prices in southern England have increased by 8.9% annually, while those in the North have seen a 1.6% annual increase.

In cash terms, the gap in average prices between the South and the North of England now stands at nearly £159,000 - which is around £23,000 higher than a year ago, Nationwide said.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, said he expects house prices to increase by 3% to 6% across the UK over the next 12 months.

He said a large part of the North/South difference in house price growth is likely to be due to a "strong relationship" between employment growth since the financial crisis and the rate of house price growth.

He said: "Regions with higher rates of employment growth have seen significantly stronger rates of house price appreciation."

Mr Gardner said: "It remains an open question whether the striking divergence in regional house price performance evident in recent years will be maintained in 2016.

"Prices in the South of England, and especially in London, have been outpacing the rest of the UK by a wide margin. Indeed, prices in the South of England are now well above their pre-crisis levels while they remain below in Scotland, Wales and large parts of the North of England."