Mixed house price fortunes revealed


Nine out of 13 regions in the UK recorded a house price rise over 2011, in a year of contrasting fortunes ranging from a 5.4% increase in London to an 8.9% drop in Northern Ireland, Nationwide said today.

The annual increase across the UK was a "surprisingly resilient" 1.1%, pushing the price of a typical home to £163,822 over the year, despite a 0.2% month-on-month fall in December.

Nationwide said that despite the encouraging figures in the face of high unemployment and "anaemic" economic growth, demand and supply remain weak, with mortgage approvals standing at around half their long-term levels.

Its report said Northern Ireland and London stood out over the past 12 months, with the sharp drop in house prices felt by Northern Ireland being a marked contrast to the relative stability seen overall.

Averaging £113,614, house prices in Northern Ireland have been slashed to half their 2007 peak levels and Northern Ireland was named as the worst-performing area for the fourth year in a row.

Homes in Northern Ireland have become more affordable than anywhere else in the UK however, with an average house price to earnings ratio of 4.1, down from 9.2 in 2007.

Belfast was the worst-performing city over the year, with prices nose-diving by 19% to average £161,326.

At the other end of the spectrum, prices in London, which is popular with overseas buyers, are just shy of £300,000 and are 1.6% below their all-time highs, compared with prices across the UK which are 10% below their peak levels.

Prices in the London areas of Camden, Greenwich, Hackney and Westminster have doubled over the last decade.

London is also the least affordable region, with a house price to earnings ratio of 7.4.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "The 1% rise in house prices recorded over the past 12 months can hardly be described as a strong performance, but against a backdrop of anaemic economic growth and a deteriorating labour market, UK house prices are surprisingly resilient in 2011."

He continued: "Although high rates of unemployment, falling real wages and the uncertain economic outlook kept many potential homebuyers on the sidelines, the supply side of the market was similarly squeezed.

"Thanks to continued low interest rates, the number of forced sales remained low. Together with a dearth in building activity in recent years, this prevented a glut of unsold homes from accumulating on the market.

"This meant that although demand and supply were both weak, they remained relatively well-matched."

Scotland saw an annual house price fall for the second year in a row, but remains one of the more affordable areas of the UK, with a house price to earnings ratio of 4.5.

Prices in Wales saw an increase slightly above the UK average, although North Wales and Mid and West Wales were the weakest-performing areas of the country and saw prices fall by 1%.

Despite the London price hikes, the Yorkshire city of Bradford was named as the best-performing city over the year, with prices rising by 10% to average £158,401.

Mr Gardner said labour market conditions are likely to remain "challenging" in 2012, putting off potential buyers, which could tip the market in buyers' favour.

He said: "The housing market in 2012 looks likely to be characterised by low levels of activity once again, with prices moving sideways or modestly lower over the course of the year."

Figures for November released by the Land Registry today showed that prices crept up by 0.3% month on month to average £160,780 in England and Wales.

The figure was an annual decrease of 1.9%, with London being the only region to experience a rise over the year.

Prices in London went up by 1.4% year on year, while the North East experienced the greatest annual price fall with a 5.4% drop.

The most up-to-date figures showed that completed house sales were 61,031 in September, up by 6% compared with the same time last year.

The number of homes which sold for £1 million-plus also went up in September to 729, a 1% increase when compared with the same time last year.

However, transactions remain way below pre-financial crisis levels and the Council of Mortgage Lenders has predicted that next year they could reach their lowest levels since its records began in 1978.

Here are the regional house price changes over the last year, with the average house price and percentage change:

London, £298,216, 5.4%

Outer Metropolitan (includes areas like Hertfordshire, Windsor and Maidenhead), £247,058, 3.6%

Yorkshire & Humberside, £134,467, 1.6%

Outer South East (includes areas like Milton Keynes, Aylesbury and Oxfordshire), £198,363, 1.6%

Wales, £135,308, 1.5%

East Anglia, £167,900, 1.5%

East Midlands, £139,669, 0.6%

South West, £184,316, 0.6%

West Midlands, £146,109, 0.3%

Scotland, £136,347, -0.8%

North, £115,716, -1.0%

North West, £135,427, -1.2%

Northern Ireland, £113,614, -8.9%

UK, £164,785, 1.1%


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