The UK housing market received an unexpected boost at the start of 2018 after annual house price growth reached 3.2% in January.

Higher than December’s annual rate of 2.5%, the figure was described as a ‘little surprising’ by those behind the statistic at Nationwide Building Society in light of weakened consumer activity elsewhere.

Nationwide was quick to play down the figures, however, with the warning that modest growth in the UK economy and increasing strains on household budgets would likely keep a lid on any further rises in house prices.

Mortgage approvals were otherwise at their lowest for three years in December, with 61,000 granted compared to an average of 67,000 in the previous 12 months.

In the same week, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said hundreds of thousands of homeowners could risk losing their homes by ignoring how they will pay off their mortgage.

With a fifth of mortgage holders in possession of an interest-only home loan, which requires savings or other funds to be available in paying a final lump sum, the FCA said the end of these mortgage terms would peak in the next 10 to 14 years.

Despite this, it has found many are ignoring letters from lenders and expressed concern that a host of homeowners do not have sufficient plans in place to pay the final bill.

The regulator claims 1.67 million full interest-only and part-capital repayment mortgages are still outstanding, representing 17.6% of all mortgages in the UK, but said lenders had improved their communications with customers at risk since its initial report on the issue five years ago.

Meanwhile, more than two million people were still facing a last-minute rush to complete their self-assessment tax forms before the January 31st deadline last week.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) had received 9.2 million returns, according to the latest available data, with 9 out of 10 completed returns filed online by the self-employed or those with more than one income source.

Elsewhere the Citizens Advice Bureau has also called for an investigation by the UK’s competition watchdog into what it is calling ‘the price of loyalty’.

Based on its previous studies, the charity claims it is common for longstanding customers to be charged more than new once across a range of sectors including energy, mobile, broadband, home insurance, fixed-rate mortgages and cash ISA savings accounts.

Unlike those who switch, these customers move onto default tariffs, with Citizens Advice estimating longstanding customers could be paying £987 more a year.

In response, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) says it is already looking into the impact this could have on vulnerable people.

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