The average UK house price has topped £200,000 for the first time – but a typical home in the North now costs less than half of one in the South – according to an index.
Property values pushed up by 0.8 per cent month-on-month in March across the UK, taking the typical price of a home to £200,251, Nationwide Building Society said.
But within the figures, the price gap between the average house price in the South of England and that in the North has widened to nearly £163,000.
The average home in the South, including the South West, South East, London and East Anglia, costs £313,670.
A typical home in the North, which for the purposes of the study includes the Midlands as well as Yorkshire and Humberside, the North West and the North East, now costs less than half of this, £150,917.
Across the UK generally, the year-on-year rate of house price growth accelerated to 5.7 per cent, marking the strongest annual pace seen since February 2015.
A stamp duty hike for buy-to-let investors, which came into force on Friday, is likely to have put added upward pressure on prices, Nationwide said.
The National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) has reported seeing a “bottleneck” of investors trying to beat the three percentage point increase on previous stamp duty rates.
Nationwide said the Outer Metropolitan area was the strongest-performing region in the first quarter of 2016, with house prices up by 12.2 per cent on a year earlier to reach £344,371 on average.
The Outer Metropolitan district covers areas such as central Kent, east Surrey, Hertfordshire, Luton, Medway, north Surrey, Reading, Slough, south Buckinghamshire and the Chilterns, south Essex, St Albans, west Kent, west Surrey, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham.
For only the fourth time in five years, London trailed in second place in the quarterly regional figures, showing how house price growth has rippled from the capital.
London recorded the second-fastest rate of annual house price growth, with an 11.5 per cent increase, taking the average property value there to £455,984.
Scotland and the North of England were the only UK areas where property values dipped year-on-year, with falls of 0.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively. The average house price in Scotland is £139,911.
In Wales, property prices were 1.7 per cent higher than a year earlier, at £141,525 on average. In Northern Ireland, property values increased by 1.8 per cent year-on-year to reach £123,225 on average.
In both East Anglia and the South West, property values were up by 5.8 per cent year-on-year, while in Yorkshire and Humberside they edged up by 1.9 per cent, and in the North West they increased 0.5 per cent.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said a recent pick-up in housing market activity is likely to have been driven, “at least in part”, by the stamp duty changes.
He said the pace of house price growth may start to moderate now that the changes have come into force.
But he continued: “It is possible that the recent pattern of strong employment growth, rising real earnings, low borrowing costs and constrained supply will keep the demand/supply balance tilted in favour of sellers and maintain pressure on price growth in the quarters ahead.”