The Nationwide Building Society has reported that UK house price growth remained broadly stable in March at 2.1%, little changed from the 2.2% recorded the previous month.
House prices fell by 0.2% over the month, after taking account of seasonal factors.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “On the surface, the relatively subdued pace of house price growth appears at odds with recent healthy rates of employment growth, a modest pick-up in wage growth and historically low borrowing costs. However, consumer confidence has remained subdued, due to the ongoing squeeze on household finances as wage growth continues to lag behind increases in the cost of living.
“Looking ahead, much will depend on how broader economic conditions evolve, especially in the labour market, but also with respect to interest rates. Subdued economic activity and the ongoing squeeze on household budgets is likely to continue to exert a modest drag on housing market activity and house price growth this year.
“But historically low unemployment and mortgage interest rates together with the lack of properties on the market is likely to provide some support for house prices. Overall, we expect house prices to be broadly flat, with a marginal gain of around 1% over the course of 2018.”
Jeff Knight, director of marketing at Foundation Home Loans, said: “The first quarter has been typically sluggish – typically a period when buyers and sellers contemplate their next move. While there is talk of a cooling London market and narrowing north-south price divide, let’s look at the bigger picture: prices are holding and, particularly for those first-time buyers, affordability remains an issue. Even with those benefiting from stamp duty cuts and low mortgage rates, the lack of supply remains the nagging problem.
“It’s imperative more is done to support not only those seeking a first or second home but also those seeking rented accommodation to tide them over. Minimal choice, poor standards and unaffordable prices risk many feeling alienated in the market and in time will impinge future activity.”