The Halifax have echoed the upward trend of Nationwide’s latest figures saying that house prices in March rose by 1.1%. However there are large differences between the rates of annual house price inflation that the two major lenders believe we are experiencing. Halifax suggests that the annual rate of house price growth is now 5.2% significantly below the 9% figure issued by the Nationwide. The Land Registry believes that the annual rate is 7%.
The Halifax’s latest figure means that the average price of a house in the UK is nearly £11,000 higher than a year ago at £168,521.
However, the Halifax agree with the Nationwide that despite the rise in house prices in March the housing market is still sluggish with house price inflation slowing compared to last year and an imbalance appearing between the number of sellers and buyers. This view is endorsed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) who said that March saw the highest number of people trying to sell their house since May 2007, and that is was the third month in a row that potential sellers outnumbered the number of buyers.
“With the general election approaching and uncertainty growing over the political direction of the country, many vendors who were previously inclined to sit on the sidelines now appear eager to put
their properties on the market,” said Rics spokesperson Ian Perry.
RICS believe that house prices will stay stable over the rest of the year, although activity should see a small rise.
Those people wishing to sell their property will hope that the recent announcement by the government, giving first time buyers a holiday on the payment of stamp duty, for two years, on purchases below £250,000, will help to boost the housing market. First time buyers are traditionally seen as the fuel the turns the wheels of the housing market allowing other buys and sellers, higher up the chain, to be able to make their move. The Conservative party have also announced that they will abolish Stamp Duty for first time buyers, for purchases up to £250,000, should they win power at the General Election.
However the debate around Stamp Duty is seen by many experts as a red herring, arguing that a maximum saving of £2,500 does not actually represent significant help or make the difference between a decision to purchase or not. Many argue that until there is easing in the criteria for first time buyers from mortgage lenders, particularly in relation to the size of the deposit needed, it will continue to be hard for first time buyers to get a foot on the housing ladder.