UK house prices enjoyed a surprise rebound at the start of the year, according to Halifax.
The lender's latest house price index says that prices jumped 2 per cent in January 2015 compared to December 2014, the biggest monthly increase recorded in January since 2009. The small rebound occurs following the goverment's reform of Stamp Duty, which was forecast by experts to stimulate sales following several months of slowing activity.
According to the Bank of England, mortgage approvals for house purchases climbed 2 per cent in December 2014 from November, the first rise in lending for six months. Accompanied by an increase in real earnings, Halifax's figures could indicate a "modest boost" to the market, says the lender's report, although it is "too early to draw any firm conclusions".
"The monthly figures in January can be particularly volatile due to the lower volumes of activity at this time of year and there have been unusually large rises on occasion in the past, such as in 2007 (2.3 per cent) and 2009 (2.4 per cent)," comments housing economist Martin Ellis.
House prices in the three months to January 2015 were 1.9 per cent higher than in the previous three months (August-October). This is the first quarterly increase since July 2014.
According to Halifax, the average property value is now Â£193,130 in the UK, 8.5 per cent higher than in the same three month period 12 months ago - up from December's annual growth of 7.8 per cent.
"Housing demand should continue to be supported by an expanding economy, continuing low mortgage rates and a boost to householdsâ spending power resulting from lower consumer price inflation and reduced fuel bills," adds Ellis.
Rob Weaver, director of investments, property crowdfunding platform Property Partner, comments: "The property market has slowed down relative to a year ago, but it's still got some punch. A strong January and the first quarterly rise for six months could suggest another buoyant year but I suspect we are more likely to see a period of gentle and sustained growth. Nobody wants to see a runaway property market this year but a market that is growing at a much more sustainable pace would be welcome."
Halifax agrees, predicting the overall downward trend in house price growth to continue over the coming months. The lender forecasts a modest house price growth of 3 to 5 per cent in 2015.