Average UK house price hits £250,000, ONS says
The average price of a house across the UK has hit £250,000 for the first time, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the figure was reached at the end of 2013.
The news suggests that tens of thousands more buyers will be paying stamp duty at the 3% rate, which starts at the £250,000 threshold.
However other measures, such as those produced by the Halifax and the Nationwide, suggest prices are lower.
Their latest price indices put average prices at about £175,000.
Overall, the ONS said, house prices were now 1.6% higher than in the pre-financial crisis peak in January 2008.
Its figures, based on the number of mortgage completions, show that house price inflation in 2013 was 5.5%.
The Nationwide has estimated that prices rose by 8.4% last year.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said the figures would "maintain concern that a housing bubble could really develop in 2014".
He is forecasting that house prices will rise by 8% across the UK in 2014.
But the figures vary wildly across the UK.
The ONS said house prices in Scotland were only growing at an annual rate of 0.5%, well below the current CPI inflation rate of 1.9%.
However, Wales and Northern Ireland saw significant rises in 2013.
In both regions, house values rose by 4.8%.
Prices in England went up by 5.7%, while prices in London grew by twice that rate, at 12.3%.
The campaign group Shelter said the news was further evidence of prices spiralling out of control.
"Until we build enough homes to keep house prices stable, more young people and families desperate to put down roots will see a home of their own become a distant dream," said Shelter's chief executive, Campbell Robb.
"Schemes like Help to Buy are only making the problem worse by inflating house prices further," he said.
The charity wants to see more homes built, which it says will make prices more affordable.
Earlier this month, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said "real" house prices - ie, prices after taking account of inflation - had seen modest rises.
On that basis, the IFS said UK prices were still 25% below their peak in 2007.