House prices up as buyers return

For sale signsHouse prices are 5.4% higher than last summer as property market activity intensifies, figures from the Halifax showed today.

The lender said prices rose 0.4% in August, the seventh consecutive monthly increase, resulting in an average figure of £170,231.

Prices in the three months to August were 5.4% higher than in the same three months a year earlier, better than July's 4.6% increase and the highest annual rate since June 2010. The annual rate has picked up from 1.1% in March.

Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis said economic improvement and Government schemes have helped boosted demand, although activity is still being held back by the squeeze on household budgets.

"Overall, house prices are expected to rise gradually over the remainder of the year," he said.
Halifax's report follows similar findings from building society Nationwide last week that the housing market revival is gathering pace.

Lenders, surveyors, estate agents and property websites have all been reporting a strong pick-up in activity following the launch of Funding for Lending, which has prompted a big improvement in mortgage availability and rates.

Other initiatives such as NewBuy and Help to Buy have been aimed at giving people with smaller deposits a leg-up.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney recently addressed concerns that Government stimulus measures risk stoking another property bubble.

He said the Bank is ''acutely aware'' of the potential threats and said action will be taken to clamp down on mortgage lending if needed.

Matthew Pointon, property economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said the imbalance between demand and the supply of homes for sale is likely to subside gradually, which will reduce the upwards pressure on prices.

He added: "A short-term imbalance between housing demand and the number of homes on the market is driving price increases.

"But the rise in wholesale interest rates seen over the past few weeks may soon start to feed through to mortgage rates, dampening demand.

"And Mark Carney's promise to use new tools to prevent a house price boom may help convince first-time buyers that they don't have to rush to buy a home now.

"At the same time, improved selling conditions should boost the number of homes for sale, taking some of the heat out of the market."

The people who affect house prices

The people who affect house prices