House price growth in cities surges to 12-year high as investors seek value

House prices in cities such as Liverpool, Cardiff and Southampton increased sharply in the first three months of the year as a wave of buy-to-let investors sought out properties in places offering decent value, a report has found.

Hometrack, which monitors property prices across the UK's 20 biggest cities, said quarterly city house price growth was at its strongest for 12 years across the first three months of 2016 - as the usual seasonal upswing in housing market demand was boosted by investors ahead of changes to stamp duty.

Liverpool and London saw the fastest house price growth over the first quarter of 2016, both recording increases of 4.1% over the three-month period.

Hometrack said a rush of buy-to-let investors trying to beat a 3% stamp duty increase for people buying second homes, which kicked in on April 1, helped to push up prices in the first three months of this year.

The stamp duty increase applied in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with similar tax increases also taking place in Scotland, where stamp duty has been abolished, to avoid the housing market being distorted there.

Hometrack said investors have been looking towards cities such as Liverpool, where house prices are lower and there is potential for greater rental returns for landlords when compared with the relatively low cost of buying a property.

The average property in Liverpool costs £113,100, compared with an average of £141,900 in nearby Manchester and a typical property price of £235,800 across all the UK's major cities.

After Liverpool and London, Cardiff saw the next strongest three-month house price growth, at 3.5%, while Bristol and Southampton both saw price increases of 3.3%.

The index found Belfast and Newcastle recorded the smallest quarterly price growth, at 0.9%.

Richard Donnell, insight director at Hometrack, said: "The acceleration in growth in the last quarter has, in part, been down to stronger demand from investors, especially those searching for higher-yielding property and seeking to beat the stamp duty deadline.

"With that deadline now passed, the question is how weaker investor demand will impact house price inflation in the second quarter of 2016. Especially at a time when home buyers start to consider the implications of the EU referendum for the economy and mortgage rates."

Mr Donnell continued: "We believe house prices will continue to rise but a moderation in investor demand and greater caution in the run up to the EU referendum will limit further acceleration in prices. Most likely the rate of growth will slow more rapidly in high-value, low-yielding cities such as London where prices will be more responsive to weaker investor demand."

Here are the average house prices across the 20 cities covered in Hometrack's report and the rate of price growth across the first quarter of 2016:

:: Cambridge, £403,500, 2.7%

:: London, £468,100, 4.1%

:: Bristol, £248,800, 3.3%

:: Southampton, £211,400, 3.3%

:: Portsmouth, £212,000, 2.6%

:: Bournemouth, £258,700, 1.4%

:: Oxford, £377,600, 1.3%

:: Birmingham, £140,300, 2.6%

:: Cardiff, £191,300, 3.5%

:: Leeds, £148,800, 2.6%

:: Leicester, £148,000, 1.3%

:: Manchester, £141,900, 2.5%

:: Edinburgh, £198,000, 2.7%

:: Nottingham, £134,100, 1.9%

:: Liverpool, £113,100, 4.1%

:: Glasgow, £110,400, 2.8%

:: Belfast, £121,200, 0.9%

:: Sheffield, £126,100, 2.0%

:: Newcastle, £120,600, 0.9%

:: Aberdeen, £188,000, 1.4%