House prices brought to a standstill in March

House prices were little changed in March from a record high set the previous month, according to an index.

Across the UK, the average house price in March was £240,384, Halifax said.

Average house prices held steady, changing little from a record high of £240,461 in February.

Property values in March were 3% higher on an annual basis.

Russell Galley, managing director, Halifax, said: “The UK housing market began March with similar trends to previous months, as key market indicators showed a sustained level of buyer and seller activity.

“Overall average house prices in the month were little changed from February’s record high, while annual growth nudged up to 3%.

“These factors all underlined a positive trajectory and increased momentum in the early part of the year, with confidence rising as political and economic uncertainty eased.”

But Mr Galley said it was clear the month ended in “very different territory” as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “On a practical level, most market activity has been paused, with the public rightly following advice to stay at home, and estate agencies, surveyors and conveyancers temporarily closing as a result.

“With viewings cancelled and movers being encouraged to put transactions on hold, activity will inevitably fall sharply in the coming months.”

He said that with less data available, it will also become harder to calculate average house prices in the coming months.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY ITEM Club said March was the first time in five months that house prices had failed to increase.

He said: “The early 2020 upturn in the housing market is now being brought to an abrupt halt by the impact of coronavirus on the economy, households and people’s movements.”

Dr Archer continued: “Indeed, the housing market looks set to be essentially at a standstill for the next few week at least…

“Mortgage lenders are now temporarily restricting or even pulling new mortgages.”

He added: “The expectation has to be that house prices will come under downward pressure from a sharp rise in unemployment and people’s incomes being hit.”

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: “These figures look like the calm before the storm.

“They still show a relatively resilient market, probably reflecting a good start to the month and a weak finish.”

He continued: “Certainly, on the ground, social distancing has wiped out most market activity although encouragingly online viewing and interest in property videos has held up well.

“Most potential buyers and sellers are putting moves on hold, biding their time and will check on market movements in the hope that they can return in the not-too-distant future.”

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