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House prices surge by 0.6 per cent in February

First-time buyers take advantage of stamp duty holiday.

House prices in the UK increased by 0.6 per cent in February 2012, according to the latest figures from the Nationwide Building Society.

This represents a year-on-year rise of 0.9 per cent. The price of a typical home in February was £162,712; up from £162,228 the previous month.

Robert Gardner, chief economist at Nationwide, said: “Evidence that house prices picked up a little in February follows a series of data releases suggesting that economic conditions may not be quite as weak as feared after the UK economy contracted in the final quarter of 2011. Surveys of activity in the manufacturing and service sectors point to a rebound in January, while consumer confidence and retail spending were both stronger than expected during the month.

“Measures of activity in the housing market have also picked up, with the number of housing transactions rising by 23 per cent year on year in January and the number of UK mortgage approvals – a leading indicator of sales – up 36 per cent.”

Gardner, however, warned: “It remains to be seen whether this trend will be sustained. Given the still challenging economic backdrop, this increase in housing market activity may be the result of a temporary rise in first-time buyers entering the market to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday before it expires in March. If so, this may continue to support activity and prices in the near term before cooling over summer.”