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Average prices in the UK increased by 1.4% in the year to March 2019, official data shows

Average house prices in the UK increased by 1.4% in the year to March 2019, up from 1% in February 2019, the latest official figures shows.

Overall, over the past three years, there has been a general slowdown in UK house price growth, driven mainly by a slowdown in the South and East of England, according to the data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices fell by 1.9% over the year to March 2019, up from a fall of 2.7% in February 2019.

The data also shows that the average UK house price was £227,000 in March 2019, some £3,000 higher than the same period a year ago.

A breakdown of the figures shows that the average house price in England increased by 1.1% year on year, taking the average house price to £243,000. House prices in Scotland increased by 3.3%, up from 0.5% in the year to February 2019, with the average house price in Scotland now £149,000.

House price growth in Wales, increased by 3% year on year, down from 3.6% in February 2019 with the average house price at £159,000. Northern Ireland house prices increased by 3.5% over the year to first quarter of 2019. Northern Ireland remains the cheapest UK country to purchase a property in, with the average house price at £135,000.

The strongest English growth was in the North and Midlands. Yorkshire and the Humber showed the highest annual growth, with prices increasing by 3.6% in the year to March 2019, this was followed by the West Midlands at 3.4%.

The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices fell by 1.9% over the year to March 2019, up from a fall of 2.7% in February 2019. This was followed by the North East where prices fell 0.8% over the year.

While London house prices are falling over the year, the area remains the most expensive place to purchase a property at an average of £463,000, followed by the South East and the East of England, at £318,000 and £287,000 respectively. The North East continues to have the lowest average house price at £123,000 and is the only English region yet to surpass its pre-economic downturn peak.

However, according to Sam Mitchell, chief executive officer of online estate agents Housesimple, the figures provide a slightly distorted picture of the market as it is today as they represent sales completed in March, and offers accepted four to eight weeks earlier.

‘At that time, we were still due to leave the European Union on 29 March, a date which was subsequently put back until early April and then moved again. January and February, when offers would have been made for March completions, was approaching the eye of the Brexit storm. That uncertainty, and the political squabbling in Parliament, fed through to buyer and seller confidence, particularly in London and surrounding areas,’ he explained.
‘It’s telling that these figures show Yorkshire and the Humber as recording the strongest price growth. It has been in the Northern regions, such as Yorkshire and the North West, that activity has been strongest during the past few months. Buyers and sellers have shown a real determination not to let Brexit derail their house buying and selling decisions,’ he pointed out.

‘Activity has remained buoyant during this period, as buyers in the North have taken advantage of attractively priced property stock and competitive mortgage rates to strike a deal while market conditions are favourable,’ he said.

‘The market has now settled down, and with the EU leave date extended to the end of October, we are expecting more buyers and sellers to take advantage of this Brexit limbo, and relatively calm market conditions, to proceed with sales and purchases,’ he added.

Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, also pointed out that the headline figures masks regional differences. ‘London continues to disappoint with the lowest annual growth but it could be argued that there was a need for a correction in the capital with property prices racing away and putting ownership beyond the reach of many ordinary people,’ he said.

‘Even with these price corrections, London is still the most expensive place to buy property. There remains a significant gap between incomes and property prices, although with lenders keen to lend and offering good rates at high loan to values, there is a glimmer of hope for those struggling to pull together the necessary deposit,’ he added.

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former RICS residential chairman, said that on the ground there is pent up demand in London feeding back into the market. ‘But many sellers buoyed by significant equity are still finding it difficult to accept the realities of today’s new norm,’ he added.

There are a lot of positives in the figures, according to Marc von Grundherr, director of Benham and Reeves. ‘While London continues to struggle a reduction in price growth decline is certainly a step in the right direction and the capital remains the most prestigious region of the UK where house price growth is concerned,’ he pointed out.

‘It’s important to note that the capital has also shouldered the majority of Brexit uncertainty, but as we’ve said time and time again, the returns to form are far swifter than the declines and we expect London will be back to full fitness before the year is out,’ he added.

Kevin Roberts, director of the Legal & General Mortgage Club, explained that its research shows that more than 67% of people looking to buy or sell in the next six months will go ahead with their plans to step onto or up the ladder. ‘This is being helped by annual house price growth that is no longer outrunning wage rises, as well as schemes like Help to Buy and Shared Ownership which provide alternative routes to home ownership,’ he said.