House prices rose for the fourth month in a row during August as the market continued to be boosted by a shortage of homes for sale, figures showed today.
The average cost of a home in the UK jumped by 1.6% during the month, the biggest increase since December 2006, according to Nationwide Building Society.
The annual rate at which prices are falling also continued to ease during August, narrowing to just 2.7%, down from 6.2% in July.
The group said prices were now 3.2% higher than at the beginning of 2009 at an average of £160,224, although it added that they were still 14.4% below their peak in October 2007.
Martin Gahbauer, Nationwide's chief economist, said: “The exceptionally low level of interest rates offers some explanation for why house prices have not repeated the very sharp falls of 2008.”
He said low interest rates had fed through into lower mortgage repayments for existing homeowners, making it easier for people who lost their jobs to continue to afford their home loan.
As a result fewer people have been forced to sell their home as is normally the case during a recession, and this has contributed to shifting the balance of supply and demand in favour of sellers during 2009.
Low interest rates have also helped make property more affordable for first-time buyers, boosting demand.