House prices soared ahead by two per cent during April as the revival in the property market continued to pick up steam.
The latest snapshot of the market showed that the aver-age cost of a home in England and Wales rose by more than £4,000 during the four weeks to May 6, pushing the average property price to a new high of £209,829.
The jump was nearly double the 1.1 per cent rise recorded during the preceding four weeks, according to property website Rightmove.
It helped push annual house price growth up to 5.9 per cent for the year to May 6, up from 4.1 per cent the previous month.
The group said, as a result of the strong growth seen during the past few months, it was increasing its house price forecast for 2006 from five per cent to eight per cent.
It said prices had already increased by 6.8 per cent since the start of the year.
Miles Shipside, commercial director at Rightmove, said: "The housing market is set to defy the downward pressure from increasingly stretched affordability with double the rise that was forecast by the industry just five months ago.
"Demand is a lot more buoyant overall than at this time last year, so a rise of up to 10 per cent in the fastermoving regions, such as parts of London and the South, could be on the cards this year."
Rightmove said the strong increase was being driven by demand for property continuing to outstrip supply.
It said a rise in interest rates, which is widely expected to happen before the end of this year, would only curb housing demand in the short term, and would do nothing to a ddress the underlying housing shortage.
The strongest price rises were seen in the North during the four weeks, with prices in the region increasing by 3.6 per cent, followed by the South East at three per cent and the East Midlands at 2.8 per cent.
At the other end of the scale the average cost of a home fell by 0.2 per cent in East Anglia during the period, while in the North West prices edged ahead by only 0.5 per cent.
Across England and Wales as a whole the average number of properties on an estate agent's books stabilised at 65, although the time taken for a property to sell fell to 70 days from 75.
The Rightmove figures are in line with ones reported by Halifax, which also said house prices rose by two per cent across the whole of the UK during April.
But Nationwide Building Society said the cost of property edged ahead by just 0.1 per cent during the month.