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by administrator @, Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 09:59

Average house prices in Britain rose more rapidly in March than at any time for three years, jumping by 2.2% over the month, according to figures from Halifax.

However, the lender played down the prospects of another property boom. The spike in prices, the biggest monthly rise since May 2009, was fuelled by first-time buyers rushing to beat the expiry of the stamp duty holiday at the end of March, said Halifax. It pointed to the quarter-on-quarter figures, which showed a fall of 0.1%, as a better guide to the underlying trend in house prices.

"We continue to expect little overall movement in prices this year provided that the UK economy does not suffer a pronounced weakening," said Halifax economist, Martin Ellis.

The average house price in March was £163,803, compared with £160,328 in February, a rise of £3,475 or £115 a day. On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the price rise was even bigger, jumping from £158,897 to £163,419. But the increase only takes prices back to the same level they were in July 2011, and they are still substantially below their peak of £199,612 in August 2007.

Halifax said that historically low levels of transactions were making month-on-month figures highly volatile. Last week Nationwide reported a 1% fall in prices during March, in sharp contrast to the Halifax data.

But there are signs of a pick-up in house sales. The number of completed house sales has risen to its highest level since late 2009, averaging 81,000 in January and February, 14% ahead of the same period last year. Halifax also noted data from the surveyors' body, Rics, showing that stocks of unsold properties had also reduced in recent months.

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