Modest price rises in London

The January survey found that house prices have risen by 0.1 per cent, following on from the 0.2 per cent rise in December. More promisingly, the number of sales agreed has is up by 4 per cent on January 2001.

Although, house prices achieved 94 per cent on average, up from the low of 93.4 per cent in November, but down from the high of 95.9 per cent in June last year.

John Wriglesworth, housing economist at Hometrack, said: "Fears of a recession seem to be receeding, and the housing market is getting off to a bright start to the year. While it is too soon to confirm this recovery is sustainable, low interest rates and the best mortgage deals that have ever been offered are making more and more London homes affordable to many buyers. While there continues to be weakness at the top end of the market (greater than £800,000), such properties represent a very small minority of London-based homes on the market.

"I am confident that we will see London house prices in general rising through out the year, and making my forecast of 4 per cent for 2002, which is well ahead of annual retail price inflation levels".

Overall the picture of the UK housing market was up slightly, with price gains averaging 0.1 per cent, and only two counties, Surrey and Greater Manchester, reported a fall in prices.

Wriglesworth, said: "This data really is encouraging for the property market across the country. It shows that consumers everywhere are getting on with their lives and not being held back by concerns about economic slowdown, or terrorism. We remain of the view that the market will continue to strengthen this year, and forecast an annual rise of 5 per cent across the country, with a more even distribution of price rises between northern and southern areas than has been seen in recent times."