House prices increased by 1.1 per cent during July, but the annual rate of growth continued to slow, Government figures showed yesterday.

However the West Midlands is bucking the trend, showing a marginal pick-up year on year.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said the monthly rise was driven by a 2.1 per cent jump in the cost of a detached house, while the price of bungalows also rose by 1.3 per cent.

Modest gains were seen across all property types, with the average cost of a semidetached house rising by 0.9 per cent, while terraced house prices were 0.6 per cent higher and flats were 0.4 per cent more expensive.

At the end of July the average cost of a property in the UK stood at £186,207, up from £184,162 a month earlier.

But despite the month-onmonth jump, the annual rate of house price inflation continued to slow, dropping to four per cent for the year to the end of July, down from five per cent in the 12 months to the end of June. The figure was also well down on the 14.3 per cent that annual growth was running at in July last year.

The annual rate of house price growth fell in all regions of the UK except Northern Ireland, where it rose from 14.2 per cent at the end of June to 15.9 per cent now, and the West Midlands, where it edged ahead by 0.1 per cent to 5.7 per cent.

The rate at which house prices are increasing continues to be slowest in southern regions, with the average cost of a home creeping forward by just 0.9 per cent in London during the past year, while the South-east fared not much better at 1.3 per cent.

Despite the slow growth, London remains the most expensive place in the UK to buy a property at an average of £270,285, while Scotland is the cheapest at £127,945.

London, the South-east, South West and the East are the only areas of the country where average house prices are higher than the UK average.

People trying to take their first step on to the property ladder are now having to pay around six per cent more than they did in July 2004, with the average first-time buyer's home now costing £153,168.

The survey follows a weekend report which showed 48 per cent of people now expect property prices to rise over the coming 12 months, compared with 45 per cent who think they will be on the slide.

The traditional summer slowdown hit activity in the market during August, with the average time it was taking to sell a property rising from

10.7 weeks in July to 12.5 weeks in August, while sellers were prepared to accept offers that were 4.9 per cent below their asking price, compared with 3.5 per cent in July.

Last week housebuilder McCarthy & Stone said the market continued to be tougher than in recent years but said it was encouraged by visitor levels.

In a pre- close trading update, it said it sold 1,983 units during the year, against 2,055 previously.