Buyer activity gains New Year pace as house prices increase 0.4%

House prices increased further in January as buyer activity picked up New Year pace in an ‘active’ and ‘interesting’ start to the year for the property market.

Asking prices in the UK rose by 0.4% according to the Rightmove Index, adding an additional £1,207 to take the average property value to £298,735. Negative growth in London and the South East have played a large part in the smaller growth at this time of year since 2012, with -1.2% and modest 0.2% growth respectively.

Although a smaller start of the year rise compared to previous years, the increase does stand on the back if a 2.2% price increase in December. Data from Halifax earlier this month highlighted a ‘surpise’ price inflation over the festive period which more than cancelled out negative growth of -1.2% the month before.

Demand and asking prices in Northern regions have seen the largest rises since the same period a year ago.

Of the 11 mainland regions, eight have seen monthly growth including 2.6% in the North West and 1.8% in the North East. Meanwhile, positive annual price growth has been seen in all but Greater London and the South East.

Read more: Manchester to enjoy continued growth for years to come

Whilst the overall market picture for London is a negative one, certain boroughs have seen marked annual growth. Demand in Camden has seen prices increase 5.8% over 30 days and a staggering 10% compared to the same time last year. Westminster also saw a modest 0.1% New Year increase against a 2.5% annual rise.

The borough with the most negative growth at the start of 2019 was Southward at -5.2%, whilst Hounslow endured a poor 2018 with -8.7% growth over the last 12 months.

Potential home-movers searching in vast numbers

But buyer interest is also on the up with Rightmove reporting a 5% increase in property searches on its’ portal compared in the first two weeks of 2019.

On the latest Index data, Rightmove’s director and housing market analyst commented that: “With Rightmove visits up by 5% on 2018 and at record levels for this time of year, it is encouraging that potential home-movers are still searching in vast numbers.

“Broadly speaking, buyer affordability and sentiment are in more positive territory in the north than in the south. But wherever you are looking to buy, mortgage rates are still at historically very cheap levels and lenders are competing hard to lend.

Read more: UK property prices set to rise 2.5% in 2019

“Mass-market home-movers have a track record of ignoring the politics and continuing to satisfy their housing needs, and as long as these fundamentals remain in place through this period of uncertainty, the market will keep moving. Indeed, in 2018 the number of sales agreed by estate agents was down by only 3% on 2017, an indicator of resilience and holding up much better than many had forecast.”