Year-on-year house prices are still down 15%, but this is a slight improvement on the 17% year-on-year fall in March.
February also saw the number of monthly approvals increase to 37,900, its highest level since May 2008.
This is still far below the long run average of the series which started in 1993 of 94,000 per month, but is a significant improvement on the average for the second half of 2008, which was only 32,000.
Fionnuala Earley, chief economist at Nationwide, says that despite the average UK house price increasing in March for the first time since October 2007, it’s still too early to interpret the Spring bounce as a sign that the housing market has finally hit the bottom.
She says: “The Bank of England has already taken strong measures to ease the tensions in economic and financial markets by cutting rates and commencing quantitative easing.
“But it will take time for these to work through into the housing market before we can expect a sustained recovery in house prices.”
Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, says that both Nationwide’s house price index and the most recent data from the Bank of England showing a rise in mortgage approvals are further signs that the market may be stabilising.
But he adds: “While the housing market may now be out of intensive care it remains some way off a return to normality.
“The rise in mortgage approvals from the depths touched in the latter part of 2007 still leaves the level of mortgage activity way down on anything experienced in previous recessions.”