House prices rose by 0.6% in February

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House prices increased by 0.6% in February, according to latest figures from Nationwide.

The rise follows a 0.3% fall in prices in January and increases the annual change to 0.9%, leaving the average house price at £162,712.

"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," says Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist.

"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."

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Upbeat assessment

And it's not just the wider economy that has improved in the early stages of 2012.

"These Nationwide numbers complete a hat-trick of upbeat assessments of the housing market," says Russell Quirk, director of estate agents

The number of housing transactions was up 23% year-on-year in January and mortgage approvals up 36% year on year, according to data from the Bank of England and HM Revenue & Customs.

"Nobody is getting carried away with the economy as it is, but the recent run of good news will be of genuine comfort to homeowners and sellers alike," adds Quirk.

"The current bounce in sales and increased level of buyer interest should encourage more sellers who have been waiting to market their home to get off the fence."