House price rise fastest since 2010
Tue 03 Jun 2014
House prices jumped by 6.7% in the 12 months to April in the fastest pace of growth seen for four years, Land Registry figures show. A 1.5% month-on-month upswing in average values across England and Wales pushed the average price to 172,069 and both the monthly and the annual increases are the strongest seen since 2010. All regions have seen prices jump over the last year, from a 17% rise in London taking average prices to 435,034, to a 2.9% annual increase in the North East where the typical property value stands at 99,001. The findings come after Government figures sparked fresh debate over whether placing new curbs on its flagship Help to Buy scheme or even pulling the plug completely would help to prevent house prices being pushed further out of people's reach. The Land Registry figures also show that the number of homes sold in London for over 1 million in February has surged by 55% compared with the same month a year ago. Some 589 properties were snapped up in this bracket in February this year. House sales across the country have lifted by over one third year-on-year as confidence has flowed back into the market. Some 72,080 sales took place each month typically between November 2013 and February this year, marking a 37% increase on the same period a year earlier. Critics of Help to Buy have blamed the scheme for adding to the upward pressure on house prices by pushing up demand without a big enough increase in the supply of homes for people to choose from. Government figures released yesterday indicate that Help to Buy, which aims to give buyers with 5% deposits a leg up, has had a more limited direct impact in places like London, where house price growth is at its strongest. Those figures showed that the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is only supporting 0.6% of all mortgage lending in London, where the market is particularly attractive to wealthy overseas cash buyers, compared with 2.3% of mortgage lending in the North West, where price rises are more moderate. Some experts said this demonstrates that recent calls to restrict Help to Buy in order to dampen strong house price growth are a "red herring". But others said that tighter controls would have a positive impact by sending out a strong message to the market. Matthew Pointon, a property economist at Capital Economics, said the case for scrapping Help to Buy "is growing". He argued that by generally raising people's house price expectations but at the same time "helping only a lucky few" home buyers, the effect of the scheme has been to push house prices "even further out of reach for the majority". The Land Registry figures also showed that after London, the East recorded the next strongest annual price growth, with a 7.8% increase taking prices there to 187,963 typically. Several areas of Northern England also saw significant year-on-year price increases, with a 5.5% rise in Yorkshire and the Humber pushing the average price to 120,118, while the North West has seen price growth of 3.8%, taking the typical value to 112,064. In Wales, prices have lifted by 3% over the last year to reach 117,581 on average. There are some suggestions that the market is starting to cool down naturally, amid signs that potential buyers are becoming less willing to meet sellers' price hikes. Toughened mortgage lending rules also came into force at the end of last month which mean that people applying for a mortgage face more rigorous checks to make sure they can afford their home loan, both now and when interest rates eventually rise. Nicholas Ayre, managing director of buying agency Home Fusion, said he is seeing "less desperation" among buyers than a few months ago. He said: "Whether it's down to affordability or buyers taking heed of concerns about a bubble, they are less willing to risk their money and pay over the odds." Peter Rollings, CEO of estate agent Marsh and Parsons, said: "In the past six weeks, we have seen the wind change in the property landscape, restoring a new calm and steadiness to the market. "Property prices have plateaued as more property has come onto the market; however demand continues to outweigh supply, in what is still a seller's market. This renaissance of supply is offering buyers more choice than they've enjoyed in recent months and is also good news for sellers searching for their onward purchase. That said, sellers should be prepared to adapt to these cooling conditions." Roger Harding, director of communications, policy and campaigns for charity Shelter, urged the Government to do more to make sure that small, locally-based house builders are in a position to help meet the rising demand for homes. He said: "Politicians of all parties now need to make stable homes for the next generation a top priority."