For sale signsHouse prices have recorded their strongest annual increase for more than two years in May in further signs that the market is gathering momentum, Halifax has reported.

Prices rose by 2.6% year-on-year to £166,898 on average, marking the biggest annual uplift since September 2010.

On a month-on-month basis, prices increased by 0.4%, which was smaller than the previous month but the fourth month in a row of rises.

Lenders, estate agents, surveyors and property websites have been reporting signs of confidence returning to the market in recent months, following the launch of several Government schemes to make it easier for people to get a mortgage.
The number of mortgages on the market has sharply increased since the Government launched its Funding for Lending scheme last August, which gives lenders access to cheap finance to help borrowers. Lenders have also been offering some of their lowest ever mortgage rates.

The Government also recently unveiled its flagship Help to Buy scheme, which is specifically aimed at giving people with low deposits a helping hand and will be fully fired into action next year. However, concerns have been raised that the scheme could lead to a "housing bubble" by artificially propping up prices.

Halifax said that HM Revenue and Customs figures showed there has been a "modest" pick-up in home sales recently, although sales volumes still remain low by historical standards.

Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: "Despite these recent signs of improvement in the housing market, the subdued economic background and the accompanying weak income growth continue to be a significant constraint on housing demand and activity."