House prices were up 0.6% in February on the previous month, Nationwide has said, with a rise in activity likely to be a temporary blip caused by first-time buyers trying to beat the end of the Stamp Duty holiday.
The average house price is now £162,712 – 0.9% higher than a year ago.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “Evidence that house prices picked up a little in February follows a series of data releases suggesting that economic conditions may not be quite as weak as feared after the UK economy contracted in the final quarter of 2011.
“Surveys of activity in the manufacturing and service sectors point to a rebound in January, while consumer confidence and retail spending were both stronger than expected during the month.
“Measures of activity in the housing market have also picked up, with the number of housing transactions rising by 23% year on year in January and the number of UK mortgage approvals – a leading indicator of sales – up 36%.
“However, it remains to be seen whether this trend will be sustained. Given the still challenging economic backdrop this increase in housing market activity may be the result of a temporary rise in first-time buyers entering the market to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday before it expires in March.
“If so, this may continue to support activity and prices in the near term before cooling over summer.”