Exeter enjoys boom in property prices

Homeowners in Exeter have been the biggest winners from the house price boom of the past five years, according to a report by Halifax Estate Agents published today.

The survey of Britain's 66 official cities found property prices in the Devon cathedral city had risen by 156 per cent since September 1999. Half the top 10 percentage rises were in the South-west, which has seen prices driven up by a growing trend of London and Home Counties households moving west to retire.

The others were Bath and Wells in Somerset, Plymouth in Devon and Truro in Cornwall. None of the other five was in the South, with five Northern and Midlands cities having rises of at least 133 per cent.

Aberdeen saw the smallest house price growth of any city over the same timescale with a rise of 30 per cent.

Halifax Estate Agents, a subsidiary of the UK's largest mortgage lender, said all but one of the top 10 - Plymouth - were small cities with populations below 200,000. Tim Crawford, one of its economists, said: "House prices in cities tend to be higher than average and cities tend to be solid performers for house price growth over the longer term. There will always be demand from households wanting to be close to the services that cities provide and from employees wanting a shorter commute to their place of work."

The most expensive area in the UK is the City of Westminster in London, where the average property price is £376,347.

Outside Greater London, St Albans (£289,656) in Hertfordshire was the most expensive while Kingston-upon-Hull (£93,697) was the cheapest.

Halifax admitted it was a fairly random survey as there are no set criteria under which the Crown confers city status. For example, St David's in Wales has a population of 1,797 while Birmingham has 970,892 residents.

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