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House prices rise for the first time in eight months

Written by: John Fitzsimons
The value of the average house increased by 0.5% in April, the latest Nationwide house price index has revealed, bringing to an end seven straight months of falls.

As a result, the average house price now stands at £260,441. However, the annual rate of house price growth remains negative at -2.7%. That’s up from the -3.1% registered in March.

Robert Gardner, chief economist at Nationwide Building Society, said that there were “tentative signs of recovery” in house prices, noting that industry data on mortgage applications points to “signs of a pickup”.

Gardner added that confidence among consumers around their financial circumstances is improving, and may be bolstered further if inflation falls in the months ahead.

He concluded: “If gains in nominal incomes remain solid ‒ wage growth has been running at above 7% in the private sector ‒ this, together with weak or declining house prices, will help improve housing affordability over time, especially if mortgage rates continue to trend lower.”

‘Encouraging signs for the market’

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said the spring market is starting to kick into gear, with buyers and sellers seeing an end in sight for both high inflation and interest rates.

He added: “Swap rates, which underpin the pricing of fixed rate mortgages, have risen again on the back of short-term volatility. However, lenders continue to reduce their fixed rates, albeit at a slower pace than before, with bigger reductions seen on higher loan-to-value mortgages as they try to attract first-time buyers.”

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance at Hargreaves Lansdown, was also cautiously optimistic but noted that ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

She said: “House prices have recovered very slightly, with the spring bump pushing them into positive territory after sliding for seven months. It’s an encouraging sign for the market, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

“The uptick in prices was foreshadowed in mortgage approval data, when approvals for new purchases started to pick up very slightly in February, so we were expecting more sales in the spring. It owes a fair amount to renewed confidence that the horrors of inflation could be coming to an end, and that mortgage rates will continue to fall.

“If inflation drops back fairly swiftly after April this may well creep higher as people can see light at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, mortgage rates have continued trending downwards. However, there are no guarantees, and while this can inspire hope among buyers, it can’t secure any certainty, so it’s too early to call the bottom.”

There may be trouble ahead

Karen Noye, mortgage expert at Quilter, noted it had been a “torrid few months” for the housing market, and questioned whether this was the start of rising house prices once again.

She added: “It is likely more interest rate rises are coming down the line, which will inevitably push mortgage rates up, but so far, homeowners appear to be coping with these heightened costs, preventing a huge slide in house prices.

“Clearly if we witness anything like the volatility of last year that will be a different matter. The health of the property market and the extent of demand will be tested during the traditionally busy spring and summer months.”

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