Prices on climb amid strongest market conditions for six years in UK

Demand continues to outpace the number of homes for sale, adding to values, and market is in its best shape since the financial crisis

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 September, 2013, 3:24am

British house price growth accelerated last month amid the strongest market conditions for six years as demand continued to outpace the number of homes for sale, Hometrack said.

Average values in England and Wales rose 0.4 per cent after a 0.3 per cent gain in July, the London-based property researcher said. Prices were up 1.8 per cent from a year earlier, the most since July 2010.

In a separate report, the Engineering Employers' Federation raised its forecasts for UK economic growth and manufacturing output.

Hometrack's survey adds to evidence of a mini-boom in the housing market, with reports last week showing values rising and mortgage approvals at their highest since 2008.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said he was alert to risks from the property market and policymakers would act if signs of a bubble emerged.

Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said: "A lack of housing for sale is set to remain a feature of the market and this will keep an upward pressure on prices in the near term.

"We expect demand to continue to expand over the remainder of the year so long as the outlook for the economy and mortgage rates remains unchanged."

Underlying market conditions are at levels not seen since the financial crisis, with the average time taken to sell a property falling to 8.1 weeks and sellers achieving 94.6 per cent of the price sought last month, Hometrack reported.

New buyers registering with real estate agents to browse property rose 1.1 per cent, the same as in July. Demand fell in August in each of the last three years. Growth in new property listings slowed to 0.8 per cent from 2.4 per cent.

Seven of the 10 regions tracked by Hometrack showed price gains, led by a 0.9 per cent increase in London. Two regions showed no change while values dropped 0.1 per cent in the northeast.

Signs of economic growth have lifted consumer confidence. The economy expanded 0.7 per cent in the second quarter, and recent data suggests the recovery is gaining traction.

A survey by the manufacturers' organisation EEF and the accounting firm BDO showed manufacturing output rose to a three-year high in the third quarter, with a gauge of production rising to 32 from 12.

A measure of investment intentions rose to 24, the highest in six years.

The group raised its forecast for manufacturing growth next year to 2.1 per cent from 1.9 per cent, following a 0.5 per cent contraction this year.

It also raised its forecast for UK gross domestic product growth to 1.2 per cent this year and 2 per cent next year, versus earlier projections of 1.1 per cent and 1.8 per cent.

"Industry's prospects have brightened considerably," said Lee Hopley, chief economist at the EEF. "There is growing confidence that improving trading conditions will continue into the final months of this year and then accelerate through the gears in 2014."

Nationwide Building Society said last week that home prices rose 0.6 per cent last month and the Bank of England's commitment to maintain record-low interest rates until at least the end of 2016 may be helping to support demand.