House price rise is not all it seems

Tim Bennett rounds up the week's personal finance news, including the lie behind the rise in house prices, the good news for festive bargain-hunters, and the new debit card for kids.

House prices rose 2% this month year-on-year, according to property consultancy Rightmove. However, sellers shouldn't get too excited Rightmove focuses on asking prices (what a seller hopes to get), not completion prices (what they actually sell the property for). There's another reason to be wary too, if you live outside London.

The average asking price across England and Wales may be up to £236,761, but most of that is down to a mini-boom in the capital, driven largely by overseas buyers from Europe and the Middle East seeking a safe haven for their cash. Strip out London, and the rise is a more modest 0.2%. And anyone selling in the northeast or southeast can ignore the headline data asking prices fell 5.7% and 4.5% respectively in those regions.

Good news for festive bargain-hunters according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, prices for goods sold online are falling at their fastest rate in five years. Prices fell 1.2% in the third quarter of this year, compared to an average rise of 0.8% on the high street.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Meanwhile, the gap between online and in-store inflation is now 4.6%. Little wonder high street vacancies are now at a record level of 11.3%, according to the British Retail Consortium.

New parents may fret about how to pay for future school fees, but if they are both working, they face a more immediate concern nursery care. According to the Independent Schools Council, school fees rose by 4.5% last year, but nursery fees for children under two rose by 5.8%.

The Daycare Trust now thinks 41% of parents pay as much for child care as they do for their mortgage or rent. One way to cut the cost is employer childcare vouchers taken out of your income before tax and national insurance. Basic-rate taxpayers can take £243 a month, higher-rate payers £124 and additional rate payers £97.

Here's a product to avoid the PKTMNY debit card. It's for children aged eight to 16. You pre-load it with cash and they then use it in a restricted range of shops, or online. It's being marketed as convenient, but sounds to me like the perfect way to hook youngsters on plastic. Give them cash or pay yourself instead.

Tim graduated with a history degree from Cambridge University in 1989 and, after a year of travelling, joined the financial services firm Ernst and Young in 1990, qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1994.

He then moved into financial markets training, designing and running a variety of courses at graduate level and beyond for a range of organisations including the Securities and Investment Institute and UBS. He joined MoneyWeek in 2007.