House prices continue to climb as far as the national average is concerned, although not as high as in the previous 12 months, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) but this masks significant regional differences. London continues to lead the way, with a 5.9 per cent rise, while prices fell by 7.7 per cent in Northern Ireland. Strip London and the South East out of the equation and you get a very different picture. The national average is therefore useful as a very general indicator of what is going on but not much more than this.
Worryingly, first-time buyers continue to pay more for their first home, with prices 1.6 per cent higher than in February 2012. While homeowners will welcome higher house prices, those struggling to get on the housing ladder for the first time are unlikely to feel the same. There was good news from the Council of Mortgage Lenders yesterday suggesting a rise in the number of first-time buyers which does suggest that funding is easier to come by for those with more modest deposits. But can it keep up with the rise in property prices? If property prices continue to edge up, this is not going to help the situation.
The outlook for the housing market is increasingly positive, with Funding for Lending and the Help to Buy schemes fuelling interest and optimism that now may be the time to get a mortgage. We expect this to continue throughout the year.