House prices rose at their fastest pace since 2010 in the three months to January, as the Bank of England's flagship credit easing scheme made it easier for first time buyers to step on to the first rung of the property ladder.
Halifax's House Price Index said prices grew by 1.9% in the quarter to January when compared with the three months before. The report also said prices were up 1.3% on the year, the first annual rise for 27 months.
But Halifax, now part of Lloyds Banking Group, also said that property values were 0.2% down on December.
The "signs of improvement" in the market, which started in late 2012, continued into the New Year, the lender said. But it added that the outlook for prices was unclear.
Prices in the three months to January were 1.9% higher than in the previous three months, the Halifax said, with the price of the average home valued at £162,932.
Halifax's housing economist Martin Ellis said that the Bank of England's Funding for Lending scheme was likely to have been a factor in a pick-up of sales and prices.
The scheme, operating since last August, has been offering cheap funds to banks and building societies, on condition they then lend the money to personal and business customers.
Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, said: "Market activity has also improved with sales in 2012 at their highest for five years. Rising mortgage approval numbers point to further increases in home sales in the coming months."
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