Halifax House Price Index shows monthly rise of 2.2% in March

The Halifax House Price Index has been released and shows a very slight quarterly change, although prices in March rose by 2.2%.  In the first three months of 2012 house prices were 0.1% lower than quarter four of 2011.  The average house price in March was £163,803, almost the same level as July 2011 (£163,765).  
The annual change in house prices according to the data is -0.6%.  This is the smallest annual change in prices since October 2010.  
Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax commented:
“House prices in the first quarter of 2012 were little changed compared with the final quarter of 2011, showing a decline of just 0.1%.  This was the same as the slight fall recorded between the third and fourth quarters of 2011.  The underlying trend therefore indicates broad stability in UK house prices.  The more volatile monthly figures continue to fluctuate as a result of the historically low level of sales volumes, increasing by 2.2% in March following February’s 0.4% fall.”
Mr Ellis added that “Efforts by first time buyers to beat the expiry of the stamp duty holiday at the end of March have probably increased sales in recent months and may have helped to support prices.”    
The proportion of first time buyers increased over the last six months.  The stamp duty exemption meant that over two years an extra 40% of first time buyers didn’t have any stamp duty liability.  
Martin Ellis concluded:
“We continue to expect little overall movement in prices this year provided that the UK economy does not suffer a pronounced weakening.”
The data by the Halifax shows a stable market, with little change over the last six months.  However, it also shows that there are tentative signs of growth as the number of completed house sales rises and the stock of unsold properties drops.
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