House prices in England and Wales edged upwards for the first time in over a year in June, new figures have revealed.
The average cost of a property increased by 0.1% during the month, according to the Land Registry, the first positive monthly change since January 2008.
Half of the 10 regions covered — those in the South of England and West Midlands — showed growth, while areas in the North of the country and Wales continued to see falls.
June's rise in the Land Registry figures follows a 0.2% slide in both April and May.
It also reported a drop in the annual rate at which house prices are falling, with this slowing to 14% from 15.9% during May, leaving the average property now worth £153,046.
Buyers are beginning to return to the market, according to the Land Registry, which said the most up-to-date figures show that, during April, the number of completed house sales rose to 36,233, from 34,690 the previous month.
But despite the improvement for the third month in a row, completions were still 42% lower than in April last year.
The figures contradict recent data from the Halifax which suggested that house prices resumed their downward trend during June — dropping by 0.5%. But they echoed those issued by Nationwide for the month, which showed a 0.9% rise.
Separate figures released yesterday also showed US house prices saw their first monthly increase in nearly three years, with prices up 0.5% in May compared to April.
However, economists have warned that signs of improvement in the market could be short lived, with rising unemployment and the continuing mortgage shortage threatening further gains.
Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight said: “Much will clearly depend on whether or not the economy can return to growth in the near term and then sustain recovery, how much further unemployment rises, how quickly and to what extent credit conditions ease, and how many properties come on to the market over the coming months,” he said.
“We doubt that the economy will see sustainable recovery until around mid-2010 and suspect that unemployment will rise markedly further, which does not bode well for house prices.”
The Land Registry figures showed London house prices rose faster than anywhere else, up 2% to an average of £301,859.