Annual house price growth slowed to 1.8% in the three months to February 2018 from 2.2% in January, the Halifax House Price Index has found.
House prices from December to February were 0.7% lower than the preceding three months (September to November). This was the first decline on this measure since May last year.
On a monthly basis, prices grew marginally by 0.4% in February, following two consecutive monthly falls. The average price in February was £224,353, down slightly from November’s high of £226,408.
Russell Galley, managing director, Halifax, said: “House prices continue to remain broadly flat, as they have since the end of last year.
“The annual rate of growth has slowed from 2.2% in January to 1.8% in February, the lowest rate of growth since March 2013.
“The labour market continues to perform strongly with the number of people in employment rising by 88,000 in the three months to December. Notably, this is almost entirely accounted for by full-time jobs.
“The strength of the jobs market may finally be benefitting wage growth, with the annual growth rate accelerating from 2.3% in November to 2.8% in December. However, earnings are rising at a slower rate than consumer prices.”
Monthly UK home sales exceeded 100,000 for the 13th month in succession, with sales remaining above 100,000 in all months since the start of 2017.
In January they reached 102,610, the highest monthly level since April 2017 and in the three months to January home sales were 2% higher than in the same period a year earlier.
Mortgage approvals for house purchases rose sharply in January, growing by 9.4% month-on-month in January to 67,478. However, mortgage approvals in January were 2.4% lower than a year earlier.
For the 10th month in succession new buyer enquiries have fallen. The lack of new instructions coming to market continues to impede activity and new instructions have now fallen for 23 consecutive months – the worst sequence since 2007 to 2009.
Galley added: “Despite the November rise in the Bank of England Base Rate, mortgage rates continue to stay low by historical standards.
“While we expect price growth to remain low, the low mortgage rate environment, combined with an ongoing shortage of properties for sale, should continue to support house prices over the coming months.”
Russell Quirk, founder and chief of Emoov.co.uk, said: “Despite the marginal increase, prices have continued to stall heading into Spring suggesting the usual seasonal market hangover has persisted for a while longer than usual.
“That said, we’ve seen a notable pick up in sellers listing their homes for sale across the UK and while still slightly subdued, there is certainly an appetite from the buyer’s side as well.
“As this increase in stock starts to filter through to actual sales, we will no doubt start to see a stronger, more sustained rate of upward growth.”
Danny Belton, head of lender relationships, Legal & General Mortgage Club, thought the figures show the market is welcoming first-time buyers.
He said: “Steadier annual house price growth is welcome news to those looking to get onto the property ladder.
“Couple this with the near record low mortgage rates the market is currently experiencing, first-time buyers are in a good position to become homeowners.”
However Paul Osborn, chief executive for Foresters Friendly Society, disagreed, citing the figures as showing the market is still tough for first-time buyers.
He said: “Today’s figures show house prices are still rising, even at a slow pace, posing a real challenge for first time buyers.
“In order to successfully get onto the housing ladder, it’s vital that your savings are working to their full potential.”