Figures released today show that house prices continued to grow strongly in March, while growth in the first three months of this year was the strongest since 2000.

According to the Permanent TSB/ESRI house price index, house prices overall rose by 1.3% in March, up slightly from February's 1% but in line with the average monthly growth over the past six months.

The annual rate of growth in March picked up to 12.1% from 11.1% in February. Prices are up 3.5% in the first three months of 2006, compared with a rise of just 1% in the same period last year.

Permanent TSB's Niall O'Grady said there was strong growth in all areas of the housing market, and the two recent interest rate rises had yet to show any impact. But he expected the higher rates to affect growth in the rest of the year, adding that he was sticking to his forecast of 10% growth for the whole of 2006.

For first-time buyers, prices were up 1.3% in March, giving an annual growth rate of 14.7%. The equivalent figures for second-time buyers were 1.4% and 11.5%.

House prices in Dublin rose by 1.4%, while growth was 1.3% outside Dublin. The annual rates were 13% and 12.2% respectively. New and existing house prices rose by 1% and 0.9% respectively in March. Over the year, new houses were up 11.9%, while second-hand prices increased by 10.5%.