House prices up 8% from low
House prices are now 8% up from their lowest point last year, despite a 1.5% fall during February.
The latest house price figures from Halifax show that the average price of a property is 8% up from the trough reached in April 2009.
On an annual basis, house prices have recovered 4.5% since February 2009 - this is the largest increase in the annual rate of change for more than a year.
However, an increase in the number of properties for sale and the bad weather during the first two months of the year saw prices decline by 1.5% during February.
Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, says the end of the stamp duty holiday at the start of January has also had a negative impact on prices.
Bank of England industry-wide figures show that the number of mortgages approved to finance house purchase – a leading indicator of completed house sales – fell by 17% between December and January following a 1.8% decline in the previous month.
“The return of the lowest stamp duty threshold to £125,000 and the bad weather are likely to have been the main causes of this fall in activity,” says Ellis. “Approvals in January were still 43% higher than in January 2009, but remained 33% lower than in January 2008.”
Over the three-month period – considered a more accurate measure of housing market trends than monthly figures – prices rose by 1.8%. However, this compares unfavourably with the 3.2% increase seen over the three months to January.
Ed Stansfield, chief property economist at Capital Economics, says it is possible that the factors affecting house prices are only temporary.
However, he warns that the economic outlook is too weak to sustain a significant recovery in house prices.
“The latest house price fall may turn out to be a blip in the upward trend,” he explains. “But it looks less surprising if, like us, you believe that the house price recovery has run far ahead of the economic fundamentals.
“As such, it may ultimately be an early sign that last year’s house price recovery is beginning to unwind.”
Halifax’s figures follow those from Nationwide, which show prices fell by 1% to £161,320 during February following a 1.4% rise in January.
Martin Gahbauer, chief economist for Nationwide, said of the figures: "Even without the impact of stamp duty changes and the snowy weather, it would have been surprising to see house prices maintain the very strong upward momentum seen for most of 2009."
A hugely unpopular tax paid on property and share purchases. Stamp duty on property is levied at 1% for purchases over £125,000 (£250,000 for first-time buyers) which then moves up at a tiered rate. For property between £125k and £250k you pay 1%, then 3% from £250k up to £500k and then 4% from £500k to £1m and then 5% for properties over £1m. But unlike income tax, which is “tiered” and different rates kick in at different levels, stamp duty is a “slab” tax where you pay the rate on the whole purchase price of the property. On shares, stamp duty is charged at a flat rate of 0.5% on all share purchases. Figures correct as of May 2011.