UK property market boosted by buy to let rush in march, official figures show

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UK house prices increased by 9% in the year to March 2016, up from 7.6% in the year to February 2016, according to the latest official figures. House price annual inflation was 10.1% in England, 2.1% in Wales, 6.4% in Northern Ireland but fell by 6.1% in Scotland, taking the average price to £292,000, the data from the Office of National Statistics shows. Annual house price increases in England were driven by growth in London of 13%, followed by 12.2% in the South East and 12.1% in the East of England. However, excluding London and the South East, UK house prices increased by 5.9% in the 12 months to March 2016. The data also shows that on a seasonally adjusted basis, average house prices increased by 2.5% between February 2016 and March 2016 and prices paid by first time buyers were 9.7% higher on average than in March 2015. For owner-occupiers prices increased by 8.7% for the same period. This is the final release of the ONS House Price Index (HPI) which will be replaced by the new UK House Price Index from June 2016. Richard Snook, senior economist at PwC, explained that buy to let investors rushing to complete purchases before the 3% stamp duty charge on additional properties came into effect at the beginning of April has affected the figures. ‘This move undoubtedly drove up demand and prices in March and we would expect demand to soften over the next few months as a result. There are no signs of any Brexit related slowdown in this month’s figures, although the underlying trends are masked by the effects of the stamp duty change,’ he said. According to Rob Weaver, director of Investments at property crowdfunding platform Property Partner, the figures also show that the divide between north and south is widening while in London and the south east first time buyers are finding it harder to get on the housing ladder. ‘But with niggling doubts over the imminent EU referendum, we’re likely to see a short term dip in prices until the end of June. Then the fundamentals of strong demand and scant supply, rock bottom interest rates and healthy jobs market should reassert themselves,’ he added. Randeesh Sandhu, chief executive officer of Urban Exposure, the residential development finance provider, also believes that activity is likely to slow down in the coming months following these changes and also in the run up the EU referendum with consumers remaining cautious against the backdrop of a potential Brexit. ‘However, it is clear that demand for housing remains strong and any impact of a Brexit is likely to be a short term trend with activity returning to normal soon after any decision. Therefore a real focus needs to be given to the housing shortages the UK faces,’ he said. ‘In London, the new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has the opportunity to inject some fresh policies to the London housing market where house prices are particularly steep. However, Sadiq’s plan… Taylor Scott International

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