'Millionaire's Row' now runs the length of the country as house price rise ups the ante

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The Independent Online

The days when it was just the rich folk of Chelsea who had to fork out £1m for a new home are gone. According to a survey published today by Halifax, the mortgage-lenders, even the people of Barnsley are handing over seven-figure sums.

The days when it was just the rich folk of Chelsea who had to fork out £1m for a new home are gone. According to a survey published today by Halifax, the mortgage-lenders, even the people of Barnsley are handing over seven-figure sums.

Land registry figures for the first half of 2004 have shown a sharp surge in million-pound properties. Nine years ago, there were just 3,400 such homes in England and Wales, current figures show 43,000.

London still has the lion's share of expensive houses and flats with two-thirds of all sales within the M25. But between January and June 2004 many other areas - including Barnsley, Nottingham, Coventry, Craven, Dover, Exeter, the Forest of Dean, North-east Lincolnshire, Teesdale and West Lothian - saw their first million-pound sales.

The Halifax research shows that Millionaires' Row now stretches the length and breadth of Britain. It revealed that a total of 1,938 properties costing £1m and above were sold in the first six months of this year, a 61 per cent rise compared to the same period in 2003.

There has also been an increase of 50 per cent in the number of sales over £2m, with 308 recorded.

Martin Ellis, chief economist at Halifax, said: "The number or properties sold for over a million resumed its strong upward trend in the first six months of 2004 following a modest decline last year. The very top end of the housing market has strengthened. While a small number of areas in London continue to account for the overwhelming majority of one million-pound sales, the incidence of properties valued above the one million-million threshold continues to spread across the country."

These choice mansions or apartmentsaccount for just 0.3 per cent of sales in the six-month period, with a third of those in Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster.

London and the South East still account for 87 per cent of sales, though more million-pound homes were changing hands in every region. Only the Midlands and Scotland saw already low numbers decrease. Outside the London area, the highest number of sales were in Three Rivers and St Albans in Hertfordshire and Trafford in Greater Manchester.

Most buyers with a substantial budget, £2m and above, were in London (83 per cent) with a total of 257 transactions in early 2004. Outside the South East such luxury properties remain the exception, though Poole, Bath, St Albans, Cambridge and Colchester all saw sales at this value.

The Halifax survey contrasts sharply with news this week that house prices are falling at their steepest rate for nine years. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said the drop was a reaction to the hikes in interest rates over the summer. The National Association of Estate Agents added that the average property price in the UK has fallen for the fourth consecutive month as buyers adopted a "wait and see" approach.

WHAT A MILLION WILL BUY

London: six-bedroom semi, 348 Finchley Road, London NW3

In London, million-pound properties are no rarity. For £995,000 you can buy this semi-detached Victorian home on a busy road. Agents say it would be ideal to split into flats.

Warwickshire: six-bedroom detached, Withybrook, Coventry

The 19th-century country house has four reception rooms, six bedrooms, coach house, pool, tennis courts and 1.6-acre grounds. Eight miles from Rugby, the guide price is £1.1m.

Berkshire: three-bedroom penthouse, North Court, Finchampstead, Berkshire

Closer to the capital, the Home Counties buyer gets a three-bedroom penthouse in a Millgate Homes complex with six shared acres of grounds and a private roof terrace for £1m.

Scotland: Seven-bedroom house, Linlithgow, West Lothian

With fairy-tale turrets andgardens sweeping down to the River Avon, the seven-bedroom country house, within commuting distance to Edinburgh or Glasgow, is on the market for £1.2m.

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