House prices rocket by almost 10% in a year

House prices up

House prices surged by 9.1% in the year to February 2014, with first-time buyers forced to pay over 10% more for properties this year than last, according to new data.

But the figures, produced by the Office for National Statistics, have led to renewed fears the property market is overheating.

Prices rose fastest in England, with a 9.7% rise in the year to February, figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate. Wales posted a 5.3% gain, Scotland experienced a 2.4% rise and prices in Northern Ireland increased by 2.8%.

London and the south east were once again behind the increases, with a 17.7% gain in the capital, along with an 8% increase in the south east, and a 7.7% gain in the East of England (7.7%).

But it's first-time buyers who experienced the largest price increases: they paid an average of 10.5% more for property in February 2014 than they did in February 2013. Existing owners paid 8.6% more.

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Price rises spreading

Nicholas Ayre, managing director of homebuying agency Home Fusion, says price rises are clearly beginning to spread out from London across most parts of the UK. "Buyers are feeling more confident and are more prepared to commit to long-term debt, which means investing in property.

"Confidence is now spreading out to the regions, which is making for a more balanced market. It is not just about London experiencing one thing and the rest of the country something else."

The ONS figures indicate that UK house prices are 3.6% higher than their January 2008 peak, while that figures rises to 5% above the peak in England alone. In London, prices are a whopping 24.5% above their January 2008 peak.

"Affordability is the main issue," says Ayre. "At what point does housing become unaffordable? Sellers are in the fortunate position of being able to ask what they like. With property prices up 10.5% for first-time buyers compared with a year ago, many people are in danger of being priced out again."