A stark north-south divide has emerged in home repossessions, with northern regions seeing a far higher number than their southern counterparts.
The North-East of England and the M62 corridor had the highest number of court-ordered repossessions in the last six months of 2011, official figures show, with public sector austerity and weak economic growth hitting the area disproportionately hard.
While the national average is 15 repossessions per 10,000 households, Chester saw 53 homes per 10,000 properties seized by lenders in the six months, the highest rate in England and Wales.
Darlington and Durham's repossessions were 60 per cent above the national average, at 24 repossessions per 10,000 homes.
By contrast, affluent southern postcodes – with more wealthy retirees and lower rates of public-sector employment – meant repossessions were scant in the Home Counties, the Cotswolds, the West Midlands, the West Country and along the south coast.
Oxfordshire saw only 12 homes seized per 10,000 households in the second half of 2011 – 20 per cent lower than the national average.
Eight of the 10 postcode areas with the lowest number of repossessions were in the south. The City of London saw just three homes seized per 10,000 households.
Richard Sexton, of e.surv chartered surveyors, which analysed the findings, said: "The pace of public sector austerity is quickening, and the economy has ground to a standstill.
"This will push up unemployment and pillage personal finances, forcing more people into mortgage arrears.
"With the north more exposed to the grind of public sector austerity and a downturn in the economy, the north-south divide in repossessions levels could become even starker over the coming months."
There was one notable exception to the trend: areas populated by wealthy retirees, such as Herefordshire.
Although the county has eight times the national average of "affluent greys" its repossession rate was a fifth lower than the national average. The same was true of the affluent spa town of Harrogate, North Yorkshire.