House prices in unexpected fall

House prices have grown substantially annually, standing 8.7% higher in the three months to March than the previous year.

Compared to the final quarter of 2013 prices were 2.3% higher between January and March.

Stephen Noakes, mortgages director, said: "Housing demand continues to be supported by an improving economic outlook, growth in employment, rising consumer confidence and low interest rates.

"The recent strengthening in house price is increasing the amount of equity that many homeowners have in their home. This will potentially encourage and enable more owners to put their property on the market for sale over the coming year, therefore boosting supply and easing pressure on prices."

The average price stands at £178,249.

Home sales increased for the tenth successive month in February 2014 to 108,940, standing 32% higher than February 2013.

February also saw 70,309 mortgage approvals for house purchases, 8% lower than January, but 34% higher than the year before.

Housebuilding has been boosted, with the number of housing starts in England in 2013 rising by 24% to 98,610.