House sales and prices see early spring surge

House sales and property prices recorded an early spring surge amid government moves to stimulate the housing market.

Data from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) shows that UK property transactions in March hit the highest monthly level since modern records began in 2005.

Official data also shows average UK house prices rose 8.6% in a year.

There were 180,690 UK property sales in March, the non-seasonally adjusted HMRC figures show, which was more than double the number in March last year and 50% higher than February.

Stamp duty holidays across the UK were set to finish at the end of March, but announcements – including in the Budget on 4 March – extended these deadlines in England, Wales and Northern Ireland into the summer.

A new guarantee scheme for low-deposit mortgages in the UK was also announced in the Budget. These home loans are now available.

“What will be interesting to see is whether this growth is sustainable or simply a reaction to the stamp duty holiday. The next three months will give us a better indication of this,” said Gareth Lewis, commercial director at property lender MT Finance.

“As much as this latest lockdown in particular has been hard, it is encouraging that people have not hunkered down and retreated but carried on with their plans to move.”

That demand for moving home will not be cheered by many first-time buyers who have now seen property prices record their highest annual growth rate in more than six years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said average house prices increased over the year to the end of February in England to £268,000 (up 8.7%), in Wales to £180,000 (up 8.4%), in Scotland to £162,000 (up 8%) and in Northern Ireland to £148,000 (up 5.3%).