House prices pick up in July despite 'soft' market

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A surprise spike in United Kingdom house prices in July has increased the annual rate of property inflation to 3.3%, pushing the cost of buying a home to a record high.

The average house price hit its highest level on record, at £230,280, with prices in the three months to July 1.3% firmer than in the previous quarter, versus a 0.5% decline in June.

The annual growth rate jumped from 1.8% in June to 3.3% in July, the largest increase since last November.

Halifax managing director Russell Galley said: "The recent improvement in mortgage approvals, the latest survey data for new buyer enquiries and agreed sales suggest approvals will remain broadly flat until the end of the year".

He said: "We remain dubious that the housing market is seeing a sustainable shifting up of a gear".

Brian Murphy, Head of Lending for Mortgage Advice Bureau, said: 'Despite the rise in Bank Rate announced last week by the Bank of England, many lenders haven't changed their rates as they had priced in for the increase previously, which is good news for buyers and those remortgaging alike.

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'It is nearly as if the north/south divide is working in reverse with more activity outside rather than inside the capital, ' he added.

"With two negative quarters behind us, many were hoping the usually busy summer period would produce a bit of a bounce, and this is a promising start".

The Bank of England's recent decision to raise interest rates from 0.5% to 0.75% is not expected to have a significant effect on either mortgage affordability or transaction volumes, Halifax said. However, it may cause some nervousness going forward as buyers worry about the possibility of future rate rises.

Mark Readings, Founder and Managing Director of Online Estate Agency, House Network, said: "The UK property market remains resilient despite political uncertainty".

"The modest momentum could also be given a short-term boost by last week's increase in interest rates, which, rather than cooling the market, may spur previously hesitant buyers into action during the typically busy "back to school" season next month".

Although the general trend is slowing house prices in London, the surge here shows that the housing market is still not yet on course for any form of landing (soft or hard) just yet. Its figure for annual house price inflation is 2.5%. "Prices are up annually and while a slightly tired market hasn't narrowed the unaffordability gap over the a year ago or two, it has at least stalled it from widening somewhat" he says.

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