House prices rose 4.4% in year to January


House prices rose 4.4 per cent to £196,829 in the year to January, according to Nationwide.

On a monthly basis, prices fell 0.1 per cent from £196,999.

The lender found that annual house price inflation edged back to 4.4 per cent in January after rising to a seven-month high of 4.5 per cent in December.

Nationwide chief economist Robert Gardner says: “The pace of UK house price growth remained broadly stable during January.

“Indeed, annual house price growth has remained in a fairly narrow range between 3 per cent and 5 per cent since the summer of 2015. This trend was maintained in January, with house prices up 4.4 per cent over the year, broadly in line with the 4.5 per cent increase recorded in December.

“As we look ahead, the risks are skewed towards a modest acceleration in house price growth, at least at the national level.

However, Nationwide’s house price measure is more subdued that some of its rivals.

For example, Halifax found that house prices were up 9.5 per cent year-on-year in the three months to December, while Nationwide reported a 4.4 per cent increase in the same period.

IHS Economics chief European and UK economist Howard Archer says: “The contrast between the Halifax and Nationwide data and the monthly volatility in the data highlight the importance of not pinning too much weight on one particular house price survey or measure, but to look at the overall picture.”

Archer says he expects to see house prices rise by around 6 per cent in 2016 due to strong buyer interest and a property shortage.

He adds: “The main downside risk to this is if the economy sees a marked loss of momentum that undermines confidence and employment growth.”

IHS also says that Chancellor George Osborne’s 3 per cent surcharge on stamp duty on purchases of buy-to-let and second houses could hike house prices too.

Archer says: “Post April, this move may modestly dilute housing market activity and upward pressure on prices.”

New Street Mortgages sales director Adrian Whittaker says: “Yet again these figures show an unseasonal increase in house prices resulting from a market that is characterised by rising demand and limited supply.

“In this environment where increasing competition is making the speed of a mortgage application ever more important, borrowers and advisers alike want to be confident in a lender that has the systems in place to provide a fast and consistent lending process.

“The mortgage industry has been slow to keep up with new technology, and if we are to satisfy the demand for faster mortgage applications and adapt to the rising competitiveness of the market, it is crucial that as an industry we look to keep systems and processes up to date.”