The Nationwide Building Society has reported that annual house price growth increased to 3% in March, up from 2.3% the previous month – the fastest pace since January 2018 (when annual growth was 3.2%).
The last six months have all seen month-on-month increases, after taking account of seasonal effects.
The UK’s largest building society stressed that while it uses a full month’s worth of data to generate the index, the cut-off point is slightly before the end of the month. This means that developments following the UK government’s lockdown will not be reflected in these figures.
Robert Gardner, the Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “In the opening months of 2020, before the pandemic struck the UK, the housing market had been steadily gathering momentum. Activity levels and price growth were edging up thanks to continued robust labour market conditions, low borrowing costs and a more stable political backdrop following the general election.
“But housing market activity is now grinding to a halt as a result of the measures implemented to control the spread of the virus, and where the government has recommended not entering into housing transactions during this period.
“Indeed, a lack of transactions will make gauging house price trends difficult in the coming months.
“The medium-term outlook for the housing market is also highly uncertain, where much will depend on the performance of the wider economy.
“Economic activity is set to contract significantly in the near term as a direct result of the necessary measures adopted to suppress the spread of the virus.
“But the raft of policies adopted to support the economy, including to protect businesses and jobs, to support peoples’ incomes and keep borrowing costs down, should set the stage for a strong rebound once the shock passes, and help limit long-term damage to the economy.
“These same measures should also help ensure the impact on the housing market will ultimately be much less than would normally be associated with an economic shock of this magnitude.”