House prices across the UK fell by 0.2% in March compared with the previous month to an average value of £224,140, according to the latest official figures to be published.
The data from the Land Registry also shows that prices are now 4.2% higher than they were in March 2017 but there is some regional variation.
In England prices fell by 0.3% month on month to £240,949 with annual growth of 4% while in Wales prices were down 0.1% from February and up 3.5% year on year to £152,999.
In Scotland, prices increased by 0.5% month on month and by 6.7% year on year to £146,009 and in Northern Ireland prices increased by 0.3% on a monthly basis and 4.2% annually to £130,026.
But sales have been falling nationwide. The most up to date data, covering January 2018, shows that sales fell by 12% in England compared to the same month in 2017, by 12.4% in Northern Ireland, by 7.4% in Scotland and by 7.3% in Wales.
A breakdown of the data for England shows that the biggest month on month rise was 1% in the East of England and the biggest decrease was a fall of 1.5% in the North East. London recorded the lowest annual figure with prices down by 0.7% compared with March 2017 and prices fell in the city by 0.9% month on month to an average of £471,944.
According to Kevin Roberts, director of the Legal & General Mortgage Club, the softening in house price growth should be welcomed. ‘Not only will this make it that little bit easier for potential buyers to make their first move, but the wide range of products available on the market means there is more choice and flexibility than ever before,’ he said.
The market is steady but subdued, according to Russell Quirk, chief executive of Emoov. ‘This is almost certainly because of the current disparity between the expected price of UK home sellers and the price home buyers are willing to pay, as dictated by the market itself,’ he pointed out.
‘Until expectations on both sides are more closely aligned, it’s likely we will see further unpredictable spikes and dips where mortgage and asking price data is c concerned, and a slow but steady consistency when looking at actual property sales,’ he added.
Thomas Fisher, economist at PwC, pointed out that while house price inflation of 4.2% in the year to March 2018 is the same as the growth in house prices in the year to February, the shorter term month on month price changes point towards weakness in the market.
‘The growing consistency of house price weakening across regions means that risks are weighted to the downside for the remainder of 2018. We anticipate that UK average annual house price growth in 2018 is likely to slow to less than 4%,’ he added.