(Adds details, background, comment from economist)
LONDON, March 31 British house prices fell in
March for the first time since mid-2015, mortgage lender
Nationwide said on Friday, another sign that households are
turning more cautious as the country prepares to leave the
Nationwide said house prices declined by a monthly 0.3
percent, compared with a rise of 0.6 percent in February.
In annual terms, prices were 3.5 percent higher, the weakest
increase since August 2015.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected house prices to
rise by 0.4 percent in March from February and annual growth of
A separate Reuters poll published in February forecast that
house price growth would slow sharply to 2.5 percent this year
and remain subdued in 2018 and 2019 as the country leaves the
British Prime Minister Theresa May launched the two-year
process of leaving the EU on Wednesday.
The fall in sterling since the June referendum is pushing up
inflation and wage growth remains sluggish, reducing the
spending power of households.
"March’s softer Nationwide house price data, following on
from the Bank of England reporting a dip in mortgage approvals
in February, fuels our belief that the housing market is being
increasingly affected by the increasing squeeze on consumers and
their concerns over the outlook," Howard Archer, an economist
with IHS Markit, said.
Nationwide said six regions saw the pace of house price
growth accelerate, six saw a deceleration and one - the East
Midlands - recorded the same rate as the previous quarter.
"Interestingly, the spread in the annual rate of change
between the weakest and strongest performing regions was at its
narrowest since 1978 at 6.8 percentage points - the second
smallest gap on record," Nationwide economist Robert Gardner
(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Alexander Smith and