Average house prices have continued to rise and are not far off the peak that they achieved in 2007, according to the latest data for England and Wales.
Average house prices rose by 5.6% in the year to March 2014 and the average price of a house now stands at £169,124, which is only £12,000 less than the peak of £181,618 seen in November 2007, the Land Registry House Price Index has revealed.
While the March 2014 figures were slightly lower than February's (down 0.4%), the overall picture is of a buoyant market. Repossessions were down by nearly a third (31%), with 979 repossessions in 2014 compared with 1,420 in January 2013 – the North East, in particular, benefited from this trend.
The Land Registry figures also show that during January 2014 the number of completed house sales in England & Wales increased by 46% to 63,123, compared with 43,373 in January 2013.
The number of properties sold in England and Wales for more than £1 million in January 2014 increased by 61% to 1,011 from 628 in January 2013.
Unsurprisingly, London topped the list of areas with house price hikes, with an average rise of 12.4%. The East (7.1%) and the South East (6.1%) also witnessed above-average price rises.
Wales experienced a drop in annual house prices, with properties down by 1.6%. It also experienced the biggest monthly drop, with prices down by 4.2% between February and March 2014.
Impact of Help to Buy
Meanwhile, a separate report by the Department for Communities and Local Government has revealed that Help to Buy is having an impact on the market, particularly when it comes to helping first-time buyers on to the property ladder.
In the first 12 months of the Help to Buy scheme – up to 31 March 2014 – 19,394 properties were bought with an equity loan and first-time buyers accounted for 16,964 (87.5%) of total purchases.
The average price of a property bought under the scheme was £184,995, with a median equity loan of £36,999. The total value of these equity loans was £791 million, with £3.97 billion worth of property sold under the scheme.
David Brown, commercial director of LSL Property Services, said: "The increased availability of mortgage finance at higher loan-to-values is finally making it possible for many frustrated first-time buyers to take a step on to the ladder. The real challenge is finding a property you can afford to buy and being able to secure it in the face of stiff competition before prices move higher still."