House prices up by average of 1.3%

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House prices rose by an average 1.3% in December but are still likely to end this year at levels close to where they began, Halifax has said.

It reported an average house price of £163,845, with the figure when measured on a quarterly basis up for the first time in seven months amid signs of a firming in the housing market towards the end of 2012.

There were six monthly rises and six decreases during 2012 as underlying prices remained little changed over the course of last year, the bank added.

Halifax economist Martin Ellis said: “We expect continuing broad stability in house prices nationally in 2013 with prices likely to end the year at levels close to where they begin.”

Prices in the three months to December were 0.3% lower than in the last quarter of 2011, the smallest annual decline since May.

The jump in prices comes amid signs that the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending scheme is having a positive impact on the availability of mortgages.

Approvals for lending to home-buyers climbed to a 10-month high in November, while the Bank’s recent credit conditions report forecast a significant increase in the availability of finance to households and borrowers this year.

However, the Halifax survey is more positive than a report last week from Nationwide, with the building society believing prices dropped 0.1% in December.

It also found evidence that the North/South divide in England is widening, with the price of a typical home in the South now standing at a new high of around £95,000 more than in the North, representing a 2% increase compared with the end of 2011.

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