UK house prices fell in February, Nationwide says…

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UK house prices have recorded their first month-on-month fall since August, according to the Nationwide.

The building society said average UK property prices in February were 0.3% down on the previous month.

This monthly change is generally regarded as a volatile measure of house prices, but the Nationwide said it reflected the wider picture.

The annual growth in house prices to February slowed to 2.2% from January’s figure of 3.2%.

Consumer confidence, the squeeze in household incomes, a lack of mortgage activity, and a slowdown in the key London market have all been factors in the slowdown.

On Wednesday, estate agent chain Foxtons reported a slump in profits, saying that activity in the London housing market was near historic lows.

Nationwide said there had been a softening in the household sector in recent months.

“Retail sales were relatively soft over the Christmas period and at the start of the new year, as were key measures of consumer confidence, as the squeeze on household incomes continued to take its toll,” said Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist.

“Similarly, mortgage approvals declined to their weakest level for three years in December, at just 61,000.

“Surveyors report that new buyer inquiries have remained soft in recent months,” he added.

In the longer term, the Nationwide predicted UK house prices would rise by 1% from the start to the end of 2018.

Sam Mitchell, chief executive of online estate agents, said: “House prices have gone off the boil, particularly in London, and activity remains subdued as we approach the crucial Spring period. Buyers are viewing but are not showing any urgency to offer.

“The housing market isn’t about to suffer a full blown crash, but we have some tough months ahead and a lot of hard negotiating between buyers and sellers if the market is to get back on track.”