House prices continued to flourish in January, increasing by 2.2 per cent compared with 2 per cent in December, according to Halifax's monthly house price index.
The average house cost was £145,610 in January compared with £142,408 in Dec-ember while the average price paid by a first-time buyer passed £100,000 for the first time at £101,719. A year ago, a first-time buyer would have paid an average of £82,968.
Key workers such as nurses, teachers and police officers are facing the same problem as first-time buyers. Nurses and firefighters are worst off, with the average house price now almost six times the average salary for both occupations.
Halifax says the low stock of secondhand homes for sale has contributed to the continuing strong upward pressure on house prices. It expects the economy to grow more rap-idly in 2004 than in the past three years, which it says should stimulate further increases in employment, so und-erpinning the most fundamental pillar supporting the housing market.
General manager (group economics) Shane O'Riordain says: “On an annual basis, prices are up by 16 per cent. A strengthening economy should continue to support a strong labour market during 2004, underpinning housing demand.”