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House prices climb at highest rate since before credit crunch

Average UK house prices soared by 10.2% in the year to March, the highest annual growth rate for 14 years, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics said average prices rose by £24,000 to £256,000 – a new record high.

Prices have been pushed up by the temporary stamp duty reduction, low interest rates, as well as people wanting more space after lockdown.

Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Sarah Coles warned the market risked overheating.

“We’re back to the kind of double-figure house price rises we saw in the heady days before the financial crisis [of 2008],” the analyst said.

“And while lenders are far more cautious than they were back in 2007, in this kind of market, there’s still the risk buyers will lose their heads, and make a property mistake that could haunt them for years.”

Anna Clare Harper, chief executive of asset manager SPI Capital, said the sharp rise in prices would mean fewer people were able to afford new homes.

“The effects are clear: with wages rising significantly more slowly than house prices, affordability constraints are increasing,” she said.

“This is creating huge inequalities between older and younger generations, and growing demand from both younger and older renters who are priced out.

“For first-time buyers, this is a hideous market,” she added. “With average prices up £24,000 in a year, saving a 10% deposit needs £2,400 extra in savings.”

Tax breaks introduced during the pandemic to boost the housing market had a marked effect over the period.

The ONS report said: “Changes in the tax paid on housing transactions may have allowed sellers to request higher prices as the buyers’ overall costs are reduced.”

A stamp duty holiday in England and Northern Ireland, which had been due to end in March, was recently extended.

In Wales, a holiday on the equivalent tax has also been extended until the end of June 2021.

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