The average house price in the UK is now £207,308, according to The Nationwide, as prices fell 0.3 per cent in March compared to February.
It was the largest monthly fall in almost five years, and came as a surprise to economists, who predicted a 0.4 per cent rise in house prices. It also represents a change in direction from the previous month – house prices had risen 0.6 per cent from January to February.
The annual rate of growth fell from 4.5 per cent in February to 3.5 per cent in March; the average house price stands at around £7,000 more than it was in March 2016.
Robert Gardner, chief economist at the Nationwide, said: “There was a mixed picture across the UK in Q1. Six regions saw the pace of house price growth accelerate, six saw a deceleration, and one (East Midlands) recorded the same rate as the previous quarter.
“Interestingly, the spread in the annual rate of change between the weakest and strongest performing regions was at its narrowest since 1978 at 6.8 percentage points – the second smallest gap on record.”
The North of England continues to be the cheapest place to buy a home in the UK, with an average house price of £123,397 for Q1 of this year, behind Wales where the average price is £143,236. The average house price in London is £478,782, making it the most expensive area in the UK to buy.
“The South of England continued to see slightly stronger price growth than the North of England, but there is further narrowing in the differential,” added Gardner.
“Northern Ireland saw a slight pickup in annual house price growth, while conditions remained relatively subdued in Scotland and Wales.”