House prices rose in March for the first time since October 2007, according to the Nationwide. The rise was marginal – an increase of 0.9% on February’s figures – but it reduces the annual rate of falls from 17.6% to 15.7%.

The building society remains cautious: ‘While the rise in prices in March is welcome, it is far too soon to see this as evidence that the trough of the market has been reached,’ said Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide’s chief economist.

David Smith, senior partner, Dreweatt Neate estate agents, believes no one will be popping Champagne corks yet. ‘Only a short while back, the Halifax was saying that prices rose by 1.9% in January when they were still very clearly falling. I think a sideways-moving market is far morelikely for the rest of 2009.

‘However, there is no doubt that the Nationwide’s March figures are a reflection of the growing number of positives we are seeing on the ground. People are genuinely looking again, sensing now could be the opportunity of a lifetime, mortgage rates are historically low and mortgage
approvals are up. Things are a lot more buoyant than they were even three to four months ago.’