Five questions answered on the recent spurt in UK house prices

Highest annual rate since June 2010.

According to the Halifax's latest house price survey house prices in the UK have risen to the highest annual rate since June 2010 in the three months to August.

By how much have house prices risen?

In the three months to August house prices rose by 5.4 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to Halifax’s survey.

Prices were also 2.1 per cent higher than the previous period.

What about the number of mortgage approvals for house purchases?

This figure, which is an indicator for completed house sales, rose 4 per cent to 60,600 between June and July.

This is the first time that approvals have exceeded 60,000 since early 2008.

What is responsible for these rises?

It is thought the government’s Help to Buy scheme has boosted house sales. The scheme, available to both first-time buyers and people moving into a newly built home worth up to £600,000, offers a government backed loan of up to 20 per cent of the price of the property. It aims to make it easier to purchase property with a deposit of only 5 per cent.

What has Halifax said about this boost in UK house prices?

Martin Ellis, the Halifax's housing economist, said: "Overall, house prices are expected to rise gradually over the remainder of the year."

The lender added that it thought below-inflation earnings rises "are likely to act as a brake on the market".

What are the experts saying?

There is a fear the UK housing market could be headed for another property bubble.

However, there are some signs of a slow down, with Halifax reporting that prices rose 0.4 per cent in August from July, a lower rate than economists had forecast and lower than July's 0.9 per cent.

Matthew Pointon, property economist at consultancy Capital Economics, speaking to the BBC said: "A short-term imbalance between housing demand and the number of homes on the market is driving price increases.

"But the rise in wholesale interest rates seen over the past few weeks may soon start to feed through to mortgage rates, dampening demand.

Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.