UK house price growth in March at strongest pace since 2004 - Nationwide

Residential housing in south London
High-rise apartments under construction can be seen in the distance behind a row of residential housing in south London, Britain, August 6, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
  • Average house price at record high of 265,312 stg
  • Market is likely to slow, economist says

LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - British house prices in March marked their strongest annual pace of growth since 2004, data from Nationwide showed, although the mortgage lender predicted that the market was likely to slow in the quarters ahead as a cost-of-living squeeze takes hold.

House prices increased by 1.1% in their eighth consecutive monthly increase in March, Nationwide said on Thursday. Prices were 14.3% higher than their level a year ago, compared with a median forecast of 13.5% in a Reuters poll of economists.

"The housing market has retained a surprising amount of momentum given the mounting pressure on household budgets and the steady rise in borrowing costs," Nationwide's chief economist Robert Gardner said in a statement.

The average price of a property reached a record high of 265,312 pounds ($348,248.53) in March.

Gardner said strong labour market conditions and faster wage growth had helped the market, while the significant savings made by households during lockdowns, which he estimated at 190 billion pounds ($249.39 billion), also helped secure a deposit.

However, data from the Bank of England (BoE) has showed that mortgage approvals and the value of secured lending were weaker than expected last month in a tentative sign that the housing market might have lost a little of its recent heat. read more

House prices surged through most of the pandemic, as buyers sought more spacious homes during lockdowns, while tax breaks and historically low interest rates also helped.

Those catalysts, however, are slowly fading.

"We still think that the housing market is likely to slow in the quarters ahead. The squeeze on household incomes is set to intensify, with inflation expected to rise further, perhaps reaching double digits in the quarters ahead if global energy prices remain high," Gardner said.

"Moreover, assuming that labour market conditions remain strong, the Bank of England is likely to raise interest rates further, which will also exert a drag on the market if this feeds through to mortgage rates."

($1 = 0.7618 pounds)

Reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Kate Holton

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