Average property price close to all-time high as Midlands drives growth

The price of a property coming to market is close to hitting a new all-time high, a website has reported.

Across England and Wales, the average asking price in March was £310,108, marking a 1.3% or £3,877 month-on-month increase, Rightmove said.

The figure stands only £363 below a record high of £310,471, recorded in June last year.

Price growth is now being driven by the Midlands, with the pace no longer being set by the more affluent London commuter belt, according to Rightmove.

Midlands-based estate agents are reporting record sales and in-demand properties going to sealed bids.

Rightmove said the latest price increase is an indication of the "continuing resilience of the market" with strong demand from buyers - if properties are correctly priced - and a shortage of suitable homes for sale in many parts of the country.

The monthly price upswing is in line with the increase seen in March last year, although at that time demand was being boosted by buy-to-let investors rushing to beat a stamp duty hike that was imposed on the sector on April 1.

But on a year-on-year basis, asking prices are now rising at a more modest rate. A year ago, prices were rising by 7.6% annually, but now the annual increase is 2.3%.

Looking across the country, the East Midlands has seen asking prices jump by 5.7% annually - higher than any other region. The increase has taken the average price tag there to a new record high for the East Midlands of £200,620.

The West Midlands has the second-highest annual asking price growth, with a 4.2% increase taking the average asking price there to £212,798.

Two areas have seen asking prices dip compared with a year ago. In Wales, the average asking price is £173,073, a 0.6% fall year-on-year. In the North East of England, asking prices are 1.1% lower than last year, now at £146,796 on average.

Among the regions which saw annual increases in asking prices, London saw the smallest growth, with prices up by 0.9% year-on-year to reach £649,772 on average. 

Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove, said: "The pace is no longer being set by the more affluent commuter-belt South, including London with its international appeal.

"Neither is it set by the cheaper North driven by a mass of investors swooping on high buy-to-let yields. As markets in other areas of the country become more mature and run out of price rise steam and froth, the fundamentals of the Midlands have come to the fore."

Rightmove also quoted the views of estate agents based in the Midlands.  

Andrew Oulsnam, director of Robert Oulsnam & Company in Birmingham, said the majority of sellers are achieving their full asking price and in many cases exceeding the guide price.

He said: "We expect property prices to continue to rise between 4% and 5% over this year, outpacing many other parts of the country."

Jeremy McGinn, director of Jeremy McGinn & Co in Stratford Upon Avon, said: "We had a record month for sales in February and properties that are priced correctly are often going to sealed bids. Low stock levels are still a problem for us, especially for properties up to around £500,000."

Peter Woodthorpe, director of Readings in Leicester, said: "So far this year, the number of sales has exceeded the number of new properties coming on to the market. Most buyers in Leicester remain confident in the prospects for the local market."

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