House prices and rents continue to rise
The changes are compounded by inflation and the cost of living is rising faster than wages, making housing continually less affordable.
Although the housing price increase in the year to February was up on the 5.3% increase in the year to January, it was below the average annual 2016 house price growth of 7.3%.
The average house price grew £12,000 from February 2016 to reach £218,000 – this was up £2,000 from January.
England saw the biggest house price increase over the period (6.3%), followed by Northern Ireland (5.7%), Scotland (3.1%) and Wales (1.8%).
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data also showed rents continuing to rise, but at a stable rate.
Private rental prices paid by tenants rose by 2.0% in the 12 months to March; this was down from 2.1% in February 2017.
However, there were stark differences around the country.
In England, private rental prices grew by 2.1% and Wales saw growth of 0.7%. Meanwhile Scotland saw rental prices decrease by 0.1% in the 12 months to March 2017.
Perhaps surprisingly, London private rental prices grew by only 1.6% in the 12 months to March 2017.
ONS Deputy National Statistician Jonathan Athow noted that while house prices and rental costs rose over the year, the rates of increase continued to slow markedly.
My Home Move CEO Doug Crawford noted that the data showed the housing market is mostly shrugging off the doom-mongers with a monthly growth of 0.6% and an annual rise of 5.8%.
“It’s true that the property market is not racing ahead at the same speed as this time last year, when investors turbo-charged the market ahead of changes to Stamp Duty in April 2016,” he said.
“But the slight dip in transaction volumes in February has not had a material impact on prices, which will reassure buyers and sellers alike. The fact is that the fundamentals are in place for a solid year for the housing market, with robust levels of demand significantly outstripping supply.
“The biggest obstacle for a happy housing market remains the access to the first step of the housing ladder for first time buyers, even in areas where the market is cooler,” he added.