House prices rise in 51% of areas
More than half of postcode districts across England and Wales recorded rising house prices in February in the most widespread growth seen for a decade, property analyst Hometrack has reported.
Some 51.1% of postcode districts saw prices increase last month, marking the biggest spread of coverage since the survey began in July 2004. Just 0.4% of these areas saw prices fall.
Price increases averaged 0.7% across the country - the highest monthly rise since April 2007 - with London and the South East seeing the biggest uplifts at 1.1% and 0.9% respectively. Values were 5.4% higher year-on-year, edging up from a 4.8% annual rise in January.
Property prices saw a monthly lift of 0.1% in Wales, by 0.2% in Yorkshire and Humberside, by 0.3% in the West Midlands, the East Midlands and the North East, by 0.4% in the North West, by 0.6% in the South West and by 0.7% in East Anglia.
On average, 95.8% of a seller's asking price is being achieved across the country, up from 95.3% in January and their property spends around eight weeks on the market.
Meanwhile, the London market continues to outperform other regions. Someone selling a property in London is now getting around 98.8% of their asking price and their property is being snapped up in under three weeks typically, according to Hometrack's figures.
In further signs that the housing market is set to strengthen further in 2014, the number of potential home buyers registering with estate agents across the country surged by 17.1% in February, which is the biggest monthly increase in seven years.
Strong house price growth in some areas has been put down to the supply of properties coming on the market failing to keep pace with the growth in buyer demand, fuelled by schemes such as the Government's Help to Buy initiative, which offers mortgages to people with deposits as low as 5%.
But Hometrack said the supply of homes on the market rose at its strongest rate in nearly seven years in February, lifting by 11.2% over the month.
It cautioned that the supply of homes for sale is still growing from low levels and further increases would be needed to smooth out the mismatch between supply and demand.
Some housing market experts have predicted that a "spring bounce" traditionally seen around this time of year will encourage more people to come to market in the coming months, which could put more of a brake on rising house prices.
Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said that around two-fifths (40%) of home buyers do not have a property to sell, which could be because they are first-time buyers or investors.
He said: "Markets where demand is driven by these types of buyers face the greatest supply side pressures, making prices more sensitive to demand...
"Looking ahead market sentiment looks set to remain positive and this will encourage more buyers into the market, supporting the usual seasonal upturn in market activity.
"There are signs of a supply response and it will be interesting to see if this can be sustained. The upward pressure on prices will only start to moderate if we see a sustained increase in supply or if demand were to weaken, which seems unlikely in the near term given the low level of mortgage rates."