Fastest fall in house prices for 16 months

 
Julian Harris
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HOUSE prices across England and Wales were 1.7 per cent lower in February than a year earlier, official data showed yesterday.

The fall was the steepest annual drop for 16 months, according to the Land Registry. However, London bucked the trend, with a 3.2 per cent increase on the previous year.

As well as London, the east of England recorded an annual rise in prices, by one per cent.

In every other region, prices were down on the year.

The largest declines were recorded in the north east and the west midlands, where prices plummeted by 7.1 per cent and 5.4 per cent respectively.

Despite the annualised increase in prices, even London experienced a decline in February when compared to the previous month. Month-on-month prices slipped by half a per cent in the capital, while across the whole of England and Wales, February’s house prices dropped 0.8 per cent, compared to January – the fifth time in the last six months that prices have regressed.

“And in January, the month when prices did not fall, there was a relatively modest 0.4 per cent rise,” said Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight.

“The return to falling prices is fully consistent with our view that house prices will continue to trend down in 2011,” Archer added.

The average house price in England and Wales is now £162,215, the Land Registry said. However, in London prices are over twice as high, averaging £341,048.

The overall number of sales edged up slightly last year across England and Wales, yet dropped in the final months of 2010, the data showed.

Compared to 2009, sales were up 5.7 per cent, to 649,957 – however, the number of sales was down in every month from September to December, compared to the same months in 2009.