The rise in home prices in most mainland cities accelerated last month, fuelling concerns that Beijing will impose more cooling measures.
Prices of new homes rose in 53 of 70 cities surveyed, against gains in 54 cities in December, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed. Prices in seven cities remained flat, and those in 10 cities fell.
The highest price increase for new homes in any city was 2.2 per cent, higher than the 1.2 per cent seen in the previous month.
In the secondary market, the highest price increase was 1.7 per cent, compared with 1.2 per cent previously.
Alfred Lau, a property analyst at investment bank Bocom International, said: "It would not be surprising to see the government impose more curbs if prices grow rapidly in the short term."
Lau said the recent surge in home prices was mainly driven by solid demand, as investors had been eliminated from the market.
"We see prices are well supported by end users. Therefore, this time, the tightening will be different and target the overheating cities," he said.
The risk in small cities would be greater as a result of a higher inventory of unsold flats when compared with first-tier cities such as Shanghai, he said.
Deutsche Bank said in a research report this week that new home supply fell as a result of tight financing for mainland developers from the second half of 2009 to 2010.
"We expect this falling supply scenario to be repeated this year as a result of lower inventory levels, falling new construction starts last year and the continually declining land sales in 2011 and 2012," it said.
"With the likely fall in new supply, we expect pricing power to return for developers, and property prices to rise 5 to 10 per cent this year."
The report said movements in average selling prices should be closely monitored as property price increases that were too fast were likely to attract comments or policy action from the central government.
"We could see some policy fine-tuning for tier-one cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. We do not expect to see any significant new tightening for the overall mainland property market in the first half [of] this year," the report said.
The official statistics came after the State Council launched five measures to try to curb revived speculation in residential property.
The measures the State Council unveiled are extending the trial property tax beyond Shanghai and Chongqing, setting annual home price targets in all provincial capitals, increasing residential land supply, tighter control over presales and improving the housing information system, and speeding up the construction of social housing.