Property estate agent sales and letting signs are seen attached to railings in London, Britain, March 30, 2016.

Reuters/Toby Melville

LONDON British house prices rose at their fastest annual pace in just over a year in March in the latest sign that buyers of properties to rent and second homes were rushing to beat the introduction of a new tax, a survey showed on Friday.

House prices were 5.7 percent higher in March compared with the same month last year, speeding up from a 4.8 percent gain in February. It was the strongest year-on-year rise since February of 2015, mortgage lender Nationwide said.

For the month, house price growth rose to 0.8 percent from 0.4 percent.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, linked the acceleration to the introduction on April 1 of a surcharge tax on buy-to-rent properties and second homes which was likely to give a “temporary boost” to sales.

“The pace of house price growth may moderate again once the stamp duty changes take effect,” he said.

But falling unemployment, wage growth, low interest rates and a shortage of homes for sale are likely to keep pushing up prices in the near term, he said.

British finance minister George Osborne announced the new tax last year in an attempt to cool strong growth in the buy-to-let market, which has made it harder for many would-be home-owners to get a foot on the property ladder.

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Larry King and Gareth Jones)

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