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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 14:50 GMT
Housing market stays strong
Gateshead street
House prices are still rising across the country
The housing market remained strong during January with prices increasing by 1.5%, new figures suggest.

The factors that drove the market up last year continue to be very much in place.

Martin Ellis, Halifax

The UK's biggest mortgage lender, Halifax, said low interest rates and low unemployment were continuing to drive the market.

The increase pushed the average cost of a property up to 123,451.

Prices for the three months to the end of January are now 24.9% higher than they were during the same period the previous year, the survey suggests.

Sluggish economy

But Halifax said it still expected the market to slow, with prices rising by just 9% during 2003, compared with 26% the previous year.

Martin Ellis, Halifax chief economist, said: "The factors that drove the market up last year continue to be very much in place.

"Mortgage rates are at their lowest level since the late 1950s.

"Unemployment too has continued to fall despite the relatively sluggish pace of overall economic activity."

Rising prices

But he added: "The rising number of first-time buyers who are finding it more and more difficult to get on to the housing ladder will increasingly curb demand, causing house prices to rise more slowly."

According to Inland Revenue figures, 1.59 million properties changed hands in England and Wales during 2002, the highest level since 1988.

There was also an increase in property listings during January by Halifax Estate Agents, particularly in the north of England and Scotland.

This suggests there is still scope for prices to continue rising in these areas.

Meanwhile, one of Britain's biggest housebuilders, Bellway, saw a 2.5% increase in its share price, at 475.5 after reporting better-than-expected six month results.

Sales were up by 7% and the company reported an increase in prices of more than 25% over the period.


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29 Jan 03 | Business
27 Jan 03 | Business
05 Feb 03 | England
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