With many city dwellers dreaming of escaping the cities to more rural locations, Halifax has carried out research focusing on house prices in 112 English market towns.
Halifax says these towns, defined as having a population of between 3,000 and 30,000, are a distinctive and important part of the English landscape.
The findings show that 10 market towns in England have an average house price in excess of £250,000. Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire is the most expensive with an average price of £550,495 followed by Midhurst in West Sussex at £279,840 and Ringwood in Hampshire at £279,266.
The survey also shows that 36 market towns have an average house price above £200,000. The overwhelming majority of these towns are in the South-East at 21 and the South-West at eight. The most expensive market towns in the North are Lymm in Cheshire at £229,412, Wetherby in West Yorkshire at £226,643 and Easingwold in North Yorkshire at £219,804.
Midhurst in West Sussex and Bodmin in Cornwall have recorded the biggest price rises since 1995. A total of 12 market towns have seen prices rise by at least 200% since 1995. All these towns are in the South-East and the South-West with the exception of Framlingham in Suffolk at 211%. Outside the South, including East Anglia, Bingham in Nottinghamshire at 194% and Lymm at 188% have experienced the biggest price rises.
Halifax says house prices have at least doubled in all the market towns examined since 1995 with only four exceptions: Immingham, Berwick upon Tweed, Saltburn in County Durham and Ferryhill.
Two-thirds of the market towns analysed have an average house price above the average for their county. Prices in Beaconsfield are, on average, two and a half times more than in Buckinghamshire. Prices in Wetherby and Easingwold are approximately twice as high as those in their counties. At the other end of the spectrum, prices in Immingham in Lincolnshire and Ferryhill in County Durham are around half those of the surrounding county.
The majority of market towns in most regions have an average house price above the regional average. The exceptions are East Anglia where prices in six of the eight towns are below the regional average and the East Midlands where nine of the 17 towns have an average price below the regional average. In contrast, all six market towns in the North-West have an average price above the regional average.
House price performance compared with their counties has been mixed. Slightly more than half of the towns surveyed have experienced a bigger rise in prices than their county both since 1995 and over the last year.
Martin Ellis, chief economist at Halifax, says: “Market towns are usually extremely attractive places to live. This is reflected in the majority of market towns having higher property prices than their surrounding counties and the more than doubling in average prices since 1995 in all but a few exceptions.”