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Nationwide is predicting another interest rate rise in May, due to the robust growth of house prices in the UK this month, though it points out the underlying trend towards a cooling of the market.

Nationwide latest monthly survey reveals that house prices rose by 0.9% in April, compared with 0.5% in March. This represents the highest monthly increase since December 2006.

The annual rate of growth for house prices has risen to 10.2%, while the building society puts the average UK house price at £180,314, up from £163,573 at the same time last year.

Nationwide chief economist Fionnuala Earley believes that the figures make an interest rate rise inevitable:

“The Bank of England held off raising rates at the beginning of April, but the acceleration in house prices during the month makes a rate rise on the MPC (Monetary Policy Committee 10th anniversary look like a certainty.

Earley cautioned against a sharp rate rise:

“In our view, the talk of rates climbing to 6% and beyond are overblown and if implemented in the current climate could be damaging to housing market stability.

With the market already showing signs of cooling, too sharp a rate hike could undermine market confidence and dry demand up swiftly. But on top of this, they could also lead to widespread payment difficulties which, in an illiquid market, could precipitate price falls.

Nationwide believes a housing market crash is unlikely, as general economic conditions are far healthier than at the time of the last housing market collapse:

“Back in the 1980s the collapse in prices came about following a sharp rise in interest rates (from 7.4% in mid 1988 to around 15% two years later) and a 1.4m increase in unemployment at a time when the economy was slowing. Today the economy is continuing to grow; the labour market has been remarkably strong and interest rates have increased by only 0.75% in the last two years.

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