Kensal Rise & Queens Park, 69 Chamberlayne Road, London, NW10 3ND
Kensal Rise & Queens Park, 69 Chamberlayne Road, London, NW10 3ND
estate agents

UK house prices rose by 0.7 per cent in February, says the Nationwide, after taking account of seasonal effects.

This resulted in an improvement in the annual rate of house price growth to 1.2 per cent in February, from a fall of 0.2 per cent the previous month.

House prices are now around 3.0 per cent below the all-time highs recorded in the summer of 2022.

Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner says: “The decline in borrowing costs around the turn of the year appears to have prompted an uptick in the housing market. Indeed, industry data sources point to a noticeable increase in mortgage applications at the start of the year, while surveyors also reported a rise in new buyer enquiries.

“Nevertheless, near-term prospects remain highly uncertain, in part due to ongoing uncertainty about the future path of interest rates.

“Borrowing costs remain well below the highs recorded last summer but, if the recent upward trend is sustained, it threatens to restrain the pace of any housing market recovery.

“While the squeeze on household budgets is easing, with wage growth now outstripping inflation by a healthy margin, it will take time to make up for the ground lost over the past few years, especially given consumer confidence remains fragile.”

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, says: “There tends to be an over-concentration on property prices when it comes to assessing how the housing market is performing. Prices impact buyer and seller confidence but transactions and affordability, which is most stretched in higher-value areas such as London, are arguably more relevant.

"However, while Nationwide reports another rise in prices, the market does remain price sensitive. Only competitively-priced properties are attracting attention. Sellers must price realistically or offers won’t be forthcoming and market improvement may not be sustained.”

Hargreaves Lansdown head of personal finance Sarah Coles warns that despite these positive figures, challenges remain.

She says: “The momentum of moderating mortgages fuelled a first-class February, and hiked house prices, pushing them into positive territory for the first time in over a year. For months at the end of 2023, buyers were sitting on their hands, waiting for a break in the clouds. Now they’ve snapped up cheaper deals and are hunting for a new home.

“However, there are flies in the soothing balm of a positive property market and the momentum of lower mortgage rates in January can only carry us so far.”

She says mortgage rates are starting to rise again. “At the start of February, according to Moneyfacts, the average two-year rate was 5.56 per cent, and by the end of the month it was 5.75 per cent. This isn’t a dramatic movement, but the direction of travel is important. If rates keep drifting up, we could see buyers hit pause.”

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