Surrey 'stockbroker belt' tops UK house-price list

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The Independent Online

Surrey's reputation as London's "stockbroker belt" is confirmed by research showing that prices in the county are even higher than in the capital.

London was also outstripped in terms of price rises, with increases in parts of the West Country running at almost twice the rate of those in the capital.

The average price of a property in Surrey is £281,451, according to Halifax Estate Agents, a subsidiary of the UK's largest mortgage lender. This is almost £40,000 (16 per cent) higher than in London, where the typical property changes hands for £243,346.

Halifax analysed 10 years of house-price data across 60 counties to produce its findings, which appear to confirm the existence of a north-south divide: the 10 counties with the highest house prices, were all in southern England.

The largest increase in house prices over the past decade was in Dorset, where prices have risen by 218 per cent since 1993. It was followed by Cornwall on 213 per cent and County Armagh in Northern Ireland with 187 per cent. London came fourth with 180 per cent.

Nine of the 10 regions recording the greatest price increases were south of a line from the Wash to the Severn, reinforcing the traditional image of a north-south divide. But the situation was reversed when looking at price rises over just the past 12 months. Homeowners in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland have seen a 48 per cent rise in the value of their property over the past year compared with a UK average of 13 per cent.

This was followed by Dyfed in Wales, with 44 per cent and South Humberside with 36 per cent. All of the 30 fastest-growing counties were in the north of England, Wales or Scotland. The slowest growth was in Wiltshire, where the rise was just 2 per cent.

Jane Pridgeon, managing director of Halifax Estate Agents, said: "There has been a huge variation in house price growth across the country over the past 10 years but there is little doubt that the majority of counties have done very well with around 80 per cent seeing increases of over 100 per cent.

"The past 12 months have definitely been 'the year of the north' as house prices in northern counties have generally outperformed the southern counties, slightly narrowing the traditional north-south divide."

However, the price gap between the expensive and the cheapest countries has remained broadly unchanged over the past decade, which has included one of the most dramatic price booms in modern history.

In 1993 Surrey was the most expensive county - as it is now - and was about three times more expensive than the cheapest county, a very similar to the current divide.

A total of 52 out of 86 British counties now have an average property price of more than £100,000, compared with just one in 1993.