Welsh counties shoot to top of house price rise list, says Halifax

In the Halifax&#39s 2003/2004 county house price league, two Welsh counties have come out on top in terms of the biggest house price rises over the past 12 month.

Gwynedd saw a 57% rise and West Glamorgan saw a 56% rise. All of the 10 counties with the biggest price gains during the last 12 months are all outside southern England. Four are in Wales &#45 Gwynedd, West Glamorgan, Mid-Glamorgan and Dyfed – three in the North – County Durham, Cumbria and Cleveland – two in Scotland – Dumfries & Galloway and the Highlands – and North Humberside in Yorkshire and the Humber. All these counties have seen house prices increases of 30% or more.

All 10 counties with the highest house price rises had an average price of less than £100,000 a year ago. The average selling price was above this landmark in all 10 counties in the first quarter of 2004.

The smallest price rises over the past year have been in Berkshire, Essex and Avon, all 3%, followed by Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire which rose by 4%.

Nine of the 10 counties recording the smallest price gains are in southern England. The exception is Shropshire in the West Midlands. In the South-East, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Essex, Hampshire and West Sussex came out bottom, in East Anglia it was Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk which all dominated the bottom 10, reflecting the widespread slowdown in the housing market in the south over the past year.

All the counties experiencing the smallest price gains in the last year, with the exception of Norfolk, had an average selling price of at least £150,000 a year ago.

However, Surrey has comfortably maintained its position as the most expensive county in the UK despite a below average rise over the past 12 months, 15% compared with the national average rise of 19%. Surrey is the only county with an average price above £300,000, at £339,772 in the first quarter of 2004. A year ago, the average price in Surrey was just below the £300,000 mark, at £296,209.

There are nine counties with an average price between £200,000 and £300,000. Eight are in the South-East: Oxfordshire, East Sussex, West Sussex, Greater London, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire and Essex. Dorset is the only county outside the South-East with an average price above £200,000. Three counties &#45 Dorset, East Sussex and Essex &#45 have seen the average price climb above £200,000 since the first quarter of 2003.

Fife, at £96,294, and County Tyrone, at £93,493, were the only counties in the UK with an average selling price below £100,000 in the first quarter of 2004.

It is possible to buy more than three and a half properties at the average price in County Tyrone for the price of the average property in Surrey.

Martin Ellis, chief economist at the Halifax, says: “The North/South house price divide is clearly reflected at a county level.

“The most expensive counties overwhelmingly remain in the south of England, but it has been the counties in northern England and in Wales that have seen the biggest house price gains over the past year. This has helped to narrow the north/south divide during the last 12 months.

“Much of the recent regional pattern, in general, and the out-performance of the North, in particular, can be explained by the fact that prices in the north have started from a much lower base level, which has permitted a sharper rise in these areas. Average prices in all the 10 counties showing the biggest price rises started from a level of below £100,000 a year ago whereas nearly all the counties recording the smallest gains were at an average price of at least £150,000 this time last year.

The Halifax expect the trend of stronger price rises outside southern England to continue during the remainder of 2004, but prices are likely to rise at a slower pace than they have in many counties in these regions over the last year as higher interest rates and the increasing difficulties faced by potential first-time buyers in getting onto the housing ladder begin to bite. This will cause national house price inflation to ease.”