Home to the cheapest houses in UK

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The Independent Online
THE DERBY suburb of Crewton does not exude cheap tat, so the place was understandably surprised to learn yesterday that its houses will fetch less money than any in the land.

You can buy a two-bedroom terraced house here for less than the cost of a Ford saloon. If you'd chanced to drop by with pounds 17,500 in your back pocket yesterday, you could have left with an end-of-terrace Fife Street property in your portfolio.

The average property price in Crewton was just pounds 29,052 last year, according to research by the financial information group Experian, published yesterday. It prompted some typically delicious north-south comparisons as the same research showed that the price of a home in St John's Wood, north London (pounds 401,303), will buy you 14 Crewton semis.

Being cheap is a double-edged sword, if Crewton's response to its new- found fame was anything to go by. For estate agents like Chris Brown of Boxall, Brown and Jones (who recently sold a two-bedroom place for pounds 14,000) it means a pounds 1,000 fixed fee can represent 5 per cent of the sale price, so "generally speaking it's good to sell at that price," he admitted.

But Abdelkrim Baka wants to sell his 10-bedroom guest house on London Road and move back to Tunisia. He put it up for sale at pounds 160,000 five years ago. Yesterday he dropped it to pounds 115,000. "I bought it from my brother in 1983," he said. "I thought he was doing me a favour."

Crewton owes its existence and its demise (prices have fallen almost 15 per cent in three years) to the railways. Rows of immaculate terraces were built for the railway workers at the turn of the century. The stone plaques set in their patterned brickwork read "Park View Villas", "Rosamund Cottages", "Bond Villas". Neither is the local infant school new-build in cheap brick. "Board School, 1890" reads the engraving on its stone wall - the kind of authenticity buyers in the south east will kill for. But authenticity means less when the British Railways Technical Centre (which made trains and wagons for BR) has closed down and hundreds of jobs have gone.

It's a far cry from St John's Wood, where prices have climbed 13.5 per cent in three years. Even that pales by comparison with Virginia Water, Surrey, where a 92.2 per cent climb between 1995 and 1998 took the average property price to pounds 268,409 last year.

Other than Virginia Water and Richmond, each of the top 20 most expensive locations are in London. The 20 cheapest areas are in Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, Staffordshire and Durham.

It all looks extremely gloomy for the north but in fact it is not. It is in the south's sensational climb that the bad signs lie, according to Experian. If nothing else, the figures show there is good value to be found in places like Crewton, while the south's extraordinary growth proves the spectre of negative equity is now looming.

"We would be staggered to see this kind of growth continue without severe inflationary pressures," said Bruno Rost of Experian. "There is strong potential for the bottoming out of the market and we don't want to see prices out of control. It is the north that demonstrates the most steady growth. There is huge over-capacity in the south east, with 23 per cent growth on average, while capacity does exist further north."

"It's not all breeze-blocks up here," said one Crewton resident yesterday. "There are even plans to revive the old canal here and create a marina. Things are never as bad they sound."

Experian's figures are based on the recorded price of sales, not the number of transactions. This helps explain why the notoriously pricey areas of Hampstead and Islington in north London (where most sales were relatively cheap flats or maisonettes) do not fare as well as East Sheen and Kilburn.

The Price Gulf

Average Average

price change

1998 1995-98

The Most Expensive

1 St John's Wood pounds 401,303 13.53

2 Belgravia pounds 388,642 7.93

3 Chelsea pounds 376,254 13.57

4 Mayfair pounds 356,642 5.39

5 Kensington pounds 354,885 21.17

6 Barnes pounds 353,764 29.27

7 Putney pounds 351,297 27.28

8 Fulham pounds 333,520 24.87

9 Chiswick pounds 316,476 50.76

10 Hammersmith pounds 309,860 33.60

The Cheapest

10 Bootle, Merseyside pounds 36,994 10.14

9 Hatfield, Yorks pounds 36,990 -3.38

8 Conisbrough, nr Rotherham pounds 36,946 2.90

7 Eston, Middlesbrough pounds 36,902 16.14

6 Cudworth, Yorks pounds 36,658 11.98

5 Framwellgate, Durham pounds 35,955 8.04

4 Thurnscoe, Yorks pounds 35,882 14.01

3 Burslem, Stoke pounds 35,594 9.59

2 Tunstall, Stoke pounds 35,339 5.17

1 Crewton, Derby pounds 29,052 -14.77

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