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Capital leading home prices higher

House prices saw a national uplift for the first time in nine months in February - but three-quarters of the rises recorded were in London and the South East - property analyst Hometrack says.

Prices increased by 0.1% month-on-month across England and Wales, marking the first upturn since May last year, with 15% of postcodes recording rises and 8% seeing prices fall.

However, 74% of the local areas showing increases were in London and the South East, Hometrack said. Prices in London increased by 0.3%, while those in the South East followed closely with a 0.2% rise.

Wales was the only other area to record a monthly increase, at 0.1%. Monthly prices were flat in East Anglia, the Midlands and the South West, fell by 0.1% in the North West and Yorkshire and Humberside, and dropped by 0.2% in the North East.

The market saw a seasonal bounce back in activity in February across the country, with a 14% increase in new buyers registering with estate agents and an 8.7% rise in the number of new homes listed for sale.

Hometrack said that activity is set to grow in the housing market moving into spring and that prices in London and the South are likely to be held up by a lack of sellers putting their homes on the market.

It said that some potential sellers in the South are being put off coming to market by a stamp duty rate of 7% which was placed on houses worth more than £2 million last March.

Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said: "The impetus for improved market conditions and higher prices has been driven by London and the Home Counties of Southern England where there is the greatest mismatch between supply and demand...

"Prices remain under downward pressure in northern regions where the trend is tipped towards price falls."

The latest study of more than 1,000 agents and surveyors said that some reported that market conditions were less buoyant than they were expecting. In the North East and Yorkshire and Humberside, the number of new buyers registering with agents rose by less than 5% over February, way below the 14% national average.

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