House prices rose are up by 0.5% in March according to the latest survey from Hometrack. According to the housing research and data company, this is the fourth consecutive month of house price growth and the highest monthly rise since the summer of 2004. Over the past 12 months house prices have risen by 0.1%, the first annual rise since January 2005. The national average house price now stands at £162,500.

Hometrack?s research team attributes a strong London market to the positive picture. ?A resurgent market in London, where prices grew by 1.1%, has put something of a gloss on the headline results?, says Richard Donnell, Director of Research, ?Whilst prices moved 0.4% higher in the South West, East Anglia and the South East, growth in all other regions has been far more limited?.

According to Mr. Donnell, the divergence in performance between London and the rest of the country is a result of a lack of new housing coming onto the market in London, supporting particularly strong price rises at the moment. Mr. Donnell also believes that London?s underperformance in terms of house price growth over the last few years has made incomes and house prices in the capital more closely aligned than is the case in other regions. ?In contrast, affordability levels remain stretched across much of the country and we expect the divergence in growth between London and the rest to continue over the year ahead?, he concludes.

A key feature of the last three months has been the growing disparity between the number of new buyers entering the market and the amount of housing for sale. This is providing an important support to price levels. Hometrack reports a 7% rise in buyers over March compared to a 3.7% increase in the number of new properties for sale. In London, the stock of properties for sale grew by just 1% over March whilst demand grew by 10%.

Despite signs of more buoyant demand, Hometrack has found there to be only slight improvement in the proportion of the asking price being achieved over March. According to the report sellers are achieving 94.3% of the asking price, up from 94.2% last month. Properties are also selling slightly more quickly whilst the average number of viewings per sale has decreased. There are some major differentials between the regions- the average time to sell a property is 4.5 weeks in London compared to over 9 in the East Midlands and the North West where growth remains sluggish.

Cities in the South of England are reporting price rises but those in the North are witnessing a slower price growth with Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle all seeing growth of just 0.1%.

The areas reporting the highest rises over March are all across London: Central London & City (1.9%), East London (1.4%), North London (1.2%), West London (1.2%), South-West London (1.0%) and South-East London (0.8%). Berkshire and East Sussex have also reported positive growth. Meanwhile Derbyshire and the Isle of Wight were the only counties to under-perform this month.