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House prices started 2020 £3,000 higher on average than a year earlier

By Vicky Shaw, PA Personal Finance Correspondent

House prices were around £3,000 higher on average in January than a year earlier, according to official statistics.

Across the UK, property values increased by 1.3% over the year to January 2020 to reach  £231,000 on average, figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Land Registry show.

The latest figures for the start of 2020 do not reflect the impact of coronavirus on the housing market.

Estate agents had been reporting property viewings numbers tumbling in recent weeks, even before the latest shutdown measures which are now keeping a large proportion of the population at home.

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former Rics residential chairman, said January’s figures show “what might have been and what still could be”.

He said: “On the ground, viewings may have dried up but inquiries haven’t.”

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY ITEM Club, said: “Most data and surveys show that the housing market ended 2019 and started 2020 on the front foot as it benefited from reduced uncertainties following December’s (general) election.”

He continued: “Sharply lower housing market activity over the coming months will likely weigh down on prices – and a falling back from early-2020 highs seems highly probable…

“It needs to be borne in mind that the ONS’s measure of house price inflation lags many of the other measures as it is based on mortgage completions.”

The official report said, on average, house prices increased annually in England to £247,000 (a 1.1% increase), in Wales to £162,000 (2.0%), in Scotland to £152,000 (1.6%) and in Northern Ireland to £140,000 (2.5%).

Within England, the strongest annual house price growth was in Yorkshire and the Humber, which saw a 3.1% increase.

At the other end of the spectrum, house prices fell by 0.6% annually in the East of England and by 0.5% in the South East.

House prices in London increased by 1.4% annually in January, slowing down from 1.8% growth in December 2019.

London house prices remain the most expensive at an average of £477,000.

The North East is the only English region where house prices are yet to surpass their 2007 peak. The average house price there in January stood at £127,000.

The report also said that statisticians are working to continue publishing the UK house price index during the Covid-19 outbreak.

It said: “As this situation evolves, we are developing several solutions to meet potential scenarios depending on the amount of data that is able to be collected by our data suppliers to ensure we are still able to produce the publication over the coming months.”

This could include considering incorporating fewer transactions into the index, or putting together some estimates using information from the previous month, the report said.