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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 10:00 GMT
House price inflation unchanged
Suburban house
House prices are still rising year on year, the Halifax says
House price inflation was steady across the country in January, according to the latest survey from the Halifax.

Prices dropped slightly from their December level, marking the first monthly fall the UK's biggest mortgage lender has recorded since May 2005.

But compared to a year ago, prices are still rising.

The UK's biggest mortgage lender says the annual rate of house price inflation was 5.1% in January - the same as in December.

The Halifax calculates that the average house in the UK now costs 170,833.

"Prices have increased by 1.6% over the past three months as the market has strengthened," said its chief economist, Martin Ellis.

But the lender predicts that prices will slow down again this year, rising only in line with general retail inflation.

More momentum

According to the surveys from both the Halifax and Nationwide, house prices have been picking up since August last year - as has the number of people applying for mortgages.

Before that, price rises had been slowing sharply following the Bank of England's 2004 decision to put up interest rates in the hope of moderating the UK's house price bubble.

However, the Halifax suggests there are some important factors that may limit house price inflation this year.

It points out that last year the number of first-time buyers - a key driver of the property market - was 320,000, the lowest level since 1980.

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