Prices paid for UK homes by first-time buyers in January were 2% higher than a year earlier, official figures showed Tuesday. Overall, house prices were up by 2.2% compared with January 2012, but fell by 0.7% between December 2012 and January 2013. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that the annual growth was driven by rises in London and the South East of England. Sales have picked up in recent months, separate figures have suggested. However, these sales remain well below the levels seen during the housing boom. In the year to January, prices in England rose by 2.4% and were up by 0.9% in Wales, but there were falls of 0.2% in Scotland and 5.4% in Northern Ireland. Annual house price increases in England were driven by a 5.5% rise in London, the ONS said. The average cost of a home in January was 234,000 pounds, the figures showed. While homeowners will welcome higher house prices, those struggling to get on the housing ladder for the first time are unlikely to feel the same, analysts said.