UK house prices grew in April at the fastest annual rate in more than two years according to figures from Halifax.

The mortgage lender said prices rose by 5% in the three months to April, compared with the same period a year earlier. It is the fastest annual growth rate since February 2017 and is up from 2.6% in the three months to March. Economists had been expecting a 4.5% increase.

Halifax cautioned that the sharp rise in the annual rate partly reflected the fact that growth was “particularly low” this time last year.

It also includes the impact of strong growth in February 2019, which was driven by a higher volume of London sales and more expensive new-build properties, Halifax said.

House price measures
 House price measures. Illustration: Pantheon Macroeconomics

The average price of a property rose to £236,619 in April, up 1.1% from the month before, compared with a fall of 1.3% in March. Economists had forecast a 1.6% drop in prices in April.

Other surveys have painted a picture of a slowing, but volatile housing market, with prices propped up by a shortage of homes on the market, while many buyers have been deterred by fears of Brexit’s potential impact on property values and their personal finances.

Russell Galley, Halifax’s managing director, said demand and supply of housing remained subdued for another month.

“The index has seen a weaker pace of growth over the last three years, which is consistent with the easing of transactions volumes and housing market activity reflected in Rics [Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors], Bank of England and HMRC figures.”

Halifax said house prices hit a low of £154,663 in April 2009 following the financial crash and have increased £81,956 since then – an average annual increase of 4.3%.

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Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former Rics residential chairman, said the spring bounce was “not as great as we might have expected”.

“The market is quite volatile, bearing in mind the fall in prices last month. The price increases recorded are probably more to do with shortages of stock and lower transactions than sustainable market strength.”

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said less volatile measures than the Halifax house price index “paint a far more subdued picture”.

However, some estate agents were encouraged by the Halifax data. Marc von Grundherr, director of the estate agent Benham and Reeves, said: “While a slightly erratic rate of annual growth may not be proof that we are out of the woods just yet, it certainly does demonstrate the much healthier position we find ourselves in now when compared to this time last year.”