UK house prices soar: Biggest jump in 4 years
U.K. house prices rose at their fastest rate in over four years in December, the latest jump in a long series which is increasingly causing alarm among analysts.
House prices in the U.K. rose 1.4 percent in December and were 8.4 percent higher year-on-year, according to the latest data from the U.K.-based Nationwide building society.
The single-month increase is the biggest since August 2009 with London house prices leading the trend, having risen 14.9 percent year on year.
"Prices in London are now 14 percent above their 2007 peak," Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist said in the report, "with the price of a typical London home at £345,186 ($567,000)"
Analysts closely watching the U.K.'s apparent return to economic growth throughout 2013 have been warning for some time that the country's booming housing market – abetted by government schemes to boost mortgage lending -- is spurring house prices higher. Housing supply also remains low.
(Read more: UK housing recovery spurs 'bubble' warnings)
The warnings of an impending housing market crash -- similar to that seen in the U.K. after the financial crisis struck in 2007 – have prompted the Bank of England to end its mortgage lending support scheme called "Funding for Lending" from January onwards in an attempt to cool something of a runaway housing market.
It might be too little too late, however, according to one analyst who warned that the latest house price data "can only fuel concern that a new housing bubble could really develop in 2014."
"[The] latest data and surveys consistently show markedly rising buyer interest and strengthening housing market activity," Howard Archer, chief U.K. and European economist at IHS Global Insight said in a note to CNBC. "So house prices look set to see further strong increases over the coming months despite the Bank of England now ending "Funding for Lending" support for mortgage lending," he warned.
Archer forecast house prices would grow a further 8 percent in 2014 with gains across the country. There is "a very real possibility that this could prove to be a conservative forecast" on the back of limited housing stock, he said, and the anticipated rise in buyer interest due to the launch of the government's "Help to Buy" mortgage guarantee scheme last October.
(Read more: UK acts to reduce housing bubble fears)
In terms of regional house price growth, however, the Nationwide data painted a mixed picture of strength and weakness in the housing market with the North, North East of England and Scotland recording low price growth.
Nationwide's Gardner also stressed that house prices were still 5 percent below the all-time highs recorded in late 2007.
Wary of decrying an impending housing crash, Jon Neale, the head of research at Jones Lang LaSallle, said the house price rise had to be viewed in context.
"First of all, this is a very polarized housing market at the moment where you're seeing very strong growth in London and the South East and quite weak growth in certain parts of the country," he told CNBC Europe's "Squawk Box."
"Things look a lot more exciting than they have done for some time but we have to bear in mind that when you go back to 2002 and 2003 you could see house prices going up a lot faster. Given where we are in the economic cycle as well, I don't think this is a worrying situation though I imagine the Bank of England is keeping a very close eye on it."