UK house prices ended 2023 just 1.8% cheaper than they had been a year earlier despite massive hikes in mortgage rates, with prices even rising in Scotland and Northern Ireland, an index has suggested.

Nationwide said the average house price was unchanged during December compared to the month before. It means that average prices end the year 4.5% below the all-time peak in the summer of 2022.

The average price of a home was £257,443 in December, Nationwide said.

Experts said that more positivity has started to enter the housing market in the last few months.

“Housing market activity was weak throughout 2023,” said Nationwide’s chief economist, Robert Gardner.

“The total number of transactions has been running at (about) 10% below pre-pandemic levels over the past six months, with those involving a mortgage down even more (about 20%), reflecting the impact of higher borrowing costs.

“On the flip side, the volume of cash transactions has continued to run above pre-Covid levels.”

The cost of borrowing has increased dramatically over the last two years, with the Bank of England’s base interest rate increasing from 0.1% in December 2021 to 5.25% today.

Nationwide said that house prices rose 4.5% in Northern Ireland in 2023, and in Scotland they were up 0.5%.

In England prices were down 2.9% compared to a year ago, and in Wales they dropped 1.9%.

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East Anglia was the place where prices fell the most rapidly, down 5.2% year-on-year. Prices generally fell faster in the south of England than in the north.

Mr Gardner said: “A rapid rebound in activity or house prices in 2024 appears unlikely.

“While cost-of-living pressures are easing, with the rate of inflation now running below the rate of average wage growth, consumer confidence remains weak and surveyors continue to report subdued levels of new buyer inquiries.

“Moreover, while markets are projecting that the next Bank Rate move will be down, there are still upward risks to interest rates. Inflation is declining, but measures of domestic price pressures remain far too high.”