House prices rise again - Halifax
House prices have continued to rise at their fastest pace in three years as more would-be buyers flock into the market, Halifax reported.
A 6.2% annual rise in prices in September takes average house values to £170,733 and represents the biggest year-on-year increase since 2010, the lender said.
The latest increase follows a 5.4% annual rise in August, which like September's increase was the strongest rate since June 2010.
On a month-on-month basis, prices rose by 0.3%, equalling the increase in August and marking the eighth month of rises in a row.
Fears have been growing that some stronger than expected price rises this year could be leading to a bubble, with borrowers over-stretching themselves.
The Government has brought forward the launch of the new phase of its flagship Help to Buy scheme from January to next week, and concerns have been raised about the further upward pressure this will place on house prices as demand is stoked further.
The new scheme will stimulate the whole housing market by offering state-backed mortgages to people with deposits as low as 5% who want to buy a new-build or an existing home.
The lack of homes for sale has also been contributing to the upward march in house prices and Halifax said demand has been outstripping supply in recent months against a background of low interest rates, signs that consumer confidence in the economy is improving and Government schemes such as Help to Buy and Funding for Lending have improved mortgage access.
But it also pointed to signs that the lack of supply is about to ease as more people are encouraged to bring their homes to market.
Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: "There are signs that supply is beginning to respond to the pick-up in demand, which if continued should help to constrain the upward pressure on prices.
"The recent strengthening in house prices is increasing the amount of equity that many homeowners have in their home, enabling more to put their property on the market for sale. Levels of housebuilding are also increasing, albeit from a very low base."
Halifax said that despite sustained house price increases this year, the average price in September was still 14% below the 2007 market peak.
It also pointed to official figures showing that the number of new-build houses started in England in the first six months of 2013 was more than a fifth higher than the same period last year.
Howard Archer, c hief UK and European economist for IHS Global Insight, said: "Housing market activity is currently still appreciably below pre-crisis levels despite the recent improvement.
"Nevertheless, there is a mounting danger that house prices could really take off over the coming months, especially if already significantly improving housing market activity and rising buyer interest is lifted appreciably further by the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme now starting in October."
He said policymakers must be prepared to step in and act quickly if the housing market shows signs of widespread overheating.
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