Commenting on the latest Land Registry figures published today, Simon Rubinsohn RICS chief economist said: "Land Registry data released today suggests house prices (in England and Wales) edged down in a very modest way in February. This is broadly consistent with most other reports of the behavior of house prices last month.
"Despite this drop, the year on year gain in house prices continues to accelerate and now stands at 7%. The report does, however, note significant regional variations with London at the top of the tree showing an annual increase of 11.9% followed by the South East at 9.4%. By way of contrast, prices in the North East still appear on average to be lower than where they were in February 2009. The Land Registry also published completed sales numbers for December which confirm that there was a significant rush to take advantage of the ending of the stamp duty holiday on properties priced £175 thousand (approx. 195 thousand) or less.
"Looking forward, the modest pick-up in buyer enquiries detected in the latest RICS Housing Market Survey is likely to be reinforced by the decision in the budget to remove stamp duty on property purchases by first-time buyers. As a result, the drop in activity highlighted in the more timely mortgage approvals data is gradually likely to be reversed over the coming months. The increase in demand should moreover provide some renewed upward pressure on house prices although we expect this to be partly offset by the increasing amounts of property that is being put on the market."