Asking prices for homes in England hit new high

LONDON (Reuters) - Asking prices for homes on sale in England and Wales hit an all-time in the month to early April, pushed up by a fall in the number of properties on the market, property website Rightmove said on Monday.

The numbers echo other surveys which have suggested that house price growth in Britain is picking up again after slowing last year when regulators introduced tougher mortgage rules.

High house prices and a shortage of new home-building have become important issues ahead of next month's national election.

Asking prices rose by a monthly 1.6 per cent, picking up speed from a 1.0 per cent increase in the month to early March although the annual pace of price growth slowed to 4.7 per cent, Rightmove said.

The increase took the average asking price to a new record of £286,133 ($575,300), surpassing a previous high set in June last year.

Pushing up prices was a shortage of homes on the market.

Rightmove said the number of newly marketed properties so far in 2015 was down 4 per cent from the same period last year. That contrasted with rising demand. Visits to Rightmove's website rose by almost 20 per cent to an all-time high in March.

"Hesitation to sell and the use of property as a long-term investment are factors in this month's new price record," said Rightmove director Miles Shipside. "As we approach the election, the highest-ever cost of housing sets an interesting challenge for political leaders."

The Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans last week to allow more people living in social housing to purchase their homes at a discount.

The Labour Party has said it plans to increase new home-building to 200,000 homes a year, up from about 110,000 in 2013.