SWINDON-based Nationwide says despite new figures showing that house prices rose by £15,000 last year, now is a better time than any for first time buyers to get a mortgage.

A report produced jointly by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) with other bodies found that the typical UK property value was £220,000 in December, marking a £15,000 increase compared with a year earlier.

The main contribution to the increase in UK house price growth came from England, where house prices increased by 7.7 per cent over the year to December, taking the average price in England to £236,000.

The report added that an average first-time buyer in Britain faces paying seven per cent more for a property than they did a year ago, with the typical price paid by this sector now at £184,973.

But Robert Gardner, chief economist at Nationwide, believes 2017 is a great time to invest in a property.

“Buying a home is the biggest single financial investment most people will make in their lifetime," he said.

"Historically low interest rates are providing some support to on the affordability front, but house prices remain high relative to average earnings.

"Indeed, the typical house price is currently six times average earnings – this is still below the 2007 high of 6.4 times earnings, but well above the long term average.

“Our own data shows that house prices increased by 0.2 per cent in January, with the annual rate of house price growth remaining broadly stable at 4.3 per cent similar to the 4.5 per cent recorded in December.

"However, the outlook for the housing market remains clouded, reflecting the uncertainty surrounding economic prospects more broadly.”

Just along the M4 in London, house prices increased by 7.5 per cent during the past year, to reach £484,000 on average.

House prices across the UK as a whole increased by 7.2 per cent in the year to December, accelerating from a 6.1 per cent rise recorded in the year to November. Prices increased by 1.4 per cent month-on-month.

Mr Gardner said: “On balance, we agree with the consensus view that the economy is likely to slow through 2017 as the squeeze on household budgets intensifies and heightened uncertainty weighs on business investment and hiring.

"Nevertheless, we continue to believe that a small rise in house prices of around 2% is more likely than a decline over the course of 2017, since low borrowing costs and the dearth of homes on the market will continue to support prices.”