Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 10:20 UK

House prices 'increase by 0.8%'

For sale signs in London
The housing market has seen significant fluctuation

House prices rose by 0.8% in August compared with July - the second monthly rise in a row, says the Halifax.

Property values were 10.1% lower in the three months to August compared with the same period a year ago, the survey found.

The average UK home was now valued at £160,973, said the Halifax, now part of the Lloyds Banking Group.

A lack of supply and greater demand for homes has pushed up prices in recent times, various surveys suggest.

"Demand for housing has increased since the start of the year due to better affordability and low interest rates," said Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis.

Survey

The survey showed that the monthly change in prices had been upwards in four of the first eight months of 2009.

UK annual house price change graph

Prices in the three months to August compared with the previous three months were 1.7% higher, the biggest rise in this measure since July 2007.

The latest rise pushed the price of the average UK home to a few pounds higher than it was at the end of 2008, but still £13,268 lower than in August 2008.

But there was a note of caution in the survey, which pointed out that activity in the housing market remained less than half of the level that was seen in mid-2007.

A lack of new homes coming on to the market was a significant factor in the latest round of rising prices, and so prices could stabilise again if potential sellers surged into the market.

Changes

The latest figures show a continuing divergence in house price trends in reports from two of the UK's leading lenders.

The Nationwide Building Society, which published its survey for August two weeks ago, said that prices in 2009 had risen by £7,000 since the start of the year - whereas the Halifax survey suggested prices had remained at roughly the same level throughout this year.

However, both lenders still calculate the average UK home to be worth about £160,000.

Mr Ellis, at the Halifax, said that affordability of mortgages had improved for new borrowers. Typical mortgage payments for a new borrower had fallen, from a peak of 48% of average disposable earnings in September 2007 to 29% in August 2009.

However, the latest figures from the Bank of England showed that the cost of a five-year fixed-rate mortgage continued to climb during August, despite wholesale funding costs dropping.

The average interest rate on a deal for a borrower offering a 25% deposit rose from 5.68% to 5.72% in August, whereas five-year swap rates - the measure used by lenders to judge the cost of mortgages - fell from a recent peak of 3.79% on 7 August to 3.34% at the end of the month.

Future position

Tight lending criteria from mortgage providers, the state of the economy and increasing unemployment levels are leading some economists and housing professionals to predict fluctuating house prices in the coming months.

"While it is now looking very likely that April marked the trough in house prices on the Halifax measure, we suspect that they will be prone to relapses over the coming months and we very much doubt that a sharp, sustainable upward trend in house prices is in the process of developing," said Howard Archer, economist at IHS Global Insight.

David Smith, of property consultants Carter Jonas, said: "Higher interest rates, when they do come, will result in fewer buyers, which will reduce demand and once again apply downward pressure on prices. The combination of increased supply and reduced demand could catch a lot of people out in 2010."

On Thursday, one of the UK's largest housebuilders, Redrow, reported that its sales fell by 54% to £301.8m in the year to the end of June as it sold fewer homes - and those which were bought fetched lower prices.



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