Average house prices across the UK slipped by just 0.1% in March, says today’s new Hometrack report.
Although a tiny fall, it masks huge geographical differences. It is also in contrast to this morning's other house price report, the Nationwide's, which said house prices went up 0.5% in March, and are now 0.1% higher than a year ago. The Nationwide average house price now stands at £164,751, up from February's £161,183.
But Nationwide barely seemed to believe its own numbers, warning that the outlook remains uncertain, with consumer confidence at an all-time low, and that house prices this year are likely to 'move sideways' or sink lower. The Hometrack report is marginally more optimistic, detecting a small sign of improvement in public sentiment.
According to Hometrack, London house prices have been rising on the back of greater demand and dwindling supply. But across all other regions, prices tiptoed down by between 0.1% and 0.3%.
Features of the Hometrack report include a 4.2% increase in the number of buyers registering with agents, but this was balanced by a 5.2% rise in new property listings, so there are still more sellers than buyers – suggesting that prices could come under further pressure.
The increase in the number of new buyers registering in March was also slower than the rise in buyers seen in February.
The report puts the average price of a property at just £153,100 – about £10,000 lower than the other main indices, Land Registry, Nationwide and Halifax.
Time on the market varies enormously across the country, but in every single region, including London, it is longer than it was in March 2010.
Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said: “Hometrack’s latest survey of over 5,000 agents and surveyors across the country reveals that London recorded the first monthly price rise of any region over the last eight months.
“Prices in the capital moved 0.2% higher on the back of a 25% increase in demand (over a two-month period) and tightening supply. Central London saw some of the highest price rises with a 1% increase over the month.
“In contrast, east London registered a 0.2% fall in prices, reflecting the highly polarised nature of the housing market across relatively small geographies.
“Away from central London, pricing levels remain under downward pressure. Overall average prices moved 0.1% lower over March, a figure flattered by the relative strength of the London market.
“The survey recorded price falls across all regions in March with the exception of the South-West where prices remained unchanged.
“The modest improvement in market sentiment over the last two months – albeit largely confined to southern England – is largely a result of increased sales volumes.
“The survey shows that the number of housing sales agreed has risen by 38% over the last two months, but this increase is off a low base.
“For example, provisional data from HMRC shows that non-seasonally adjusted residential transactions were down 30% in January compared to December.
“That said, rising sales volumes show that demand exists and that pricing levels are at a level where transactions can take place – and this was not the case over the final half of 2010.”