The only way would seem to be up

The latest house price survey shows growth in all sectors and areas - with the possible exception of Barnet.
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The Independent Online
The Most recent figures from the Land Registry have demonstrated once again that the housing market is definitely on the move - but more so in some places than others.

While London and the South-east is clearly experiencing a mini-boom, some regions remain moribund.

The Land Registry figures are packed with detail lacking from some other surveys. For example, you may not know that a quarter of all house purchases are without a mortgage, or in other words for cash. This is the sort of information which gives economists far more idea of how to dampen down the market. Rises in interest rates may do little to discourage cash buyers, for example.

For the first quarter of this year, properties where demand was greatest were new flats and maisonettes. Prices for these rose a whopping 21 per cent from the first quarter of 1996. From an average price of pounds 71,310 a year ago, they are now worth pounds 86,966. Perhaps the increase reflects their greater concentration in the South-east.

The worst performing category was new detached homes, which rose in price only 4.81 per cent, from pounds 106,751 to pounds 111,891. Although the survey offers no reason why, old properties fare better than new properties in all categories (detached, semi-detached, terraced, flats/maisonettes) with the exception of the last, flats/maisonettes.

Flats and maisonettes, of course, are prime targets for first-time buyers, who were scared off by the crash of the early 1990s. They are now back in the market with a vengeance.

Naturally, the most expensive properties are detached houses, with an average old detached house at pounds 111,899 just beating a new detached home worth pounds 111,891. However, old detached houses increased more in value, up 8.78 per cent from pounds 102,869, against a 4.81 per cent rise for new homes.

If you are after a bargain, old terraced houses are your best bet, at pounds 54,688. Perhaps because of their relative cheapness, however, they are also the next best performing category after flats and maisonettes, with prices up an average 9.87 per cent, to pounds 55,337.

The Land Registry figures exclude sales below pounds 10,000 and for over pounds 1m. However, it lists separately the number of transactions by price range. So there were 1,305 sales for properties worth less than pounds 10,000, in the first quarter of this year.

Only 12 properties in England and Wales sold for more than pounds 2m. That, however, is twice the number sold in the first quarter of 1996, so it could still be fair to say that there is a boom going on at the top end of the market. This is a notion borne out by international agents who speak of foreign money flooding into the UK, whether from Hong Kong businessmen relocating to London before the handover, or from Russia's nouveau riche.

The price range with the most deals was the pounds 50,001 to pounds 60,000 bracket, where 29,467 properties changed hands.

Since the start of 1995, sales volumes have been steadily increasing, from just over 150,000 in the first quarter of 1995 to over 250,000 in the last quarter of 1996, an increase of 18.6 per cent. This is a greater jump than the average price, which has risen by 7.6 per cent, from just under pounds 70,000 at the start of 1995 to about pounds 73,000 by the end of 1996.

And what of the cheapest and most expensive regions to buy a home in? Blaenau Gwent, in south-east Wales, was the cheapest, with an average property costing a mere pounds 32,935 in the first quarter of this year. Next cheapest was City of Kingston upon Hull (pounds 35,391), followed by Rhondda Cynon Taff at pounds 38,175.

The most expensive area is not, as some may think, greater London, but the archetypal stockbroker belt county of Surrey. There you have to stump up an average of pounds 121,585 to get on the housing ladder. Greater London is in second place, with pounds 107,953. However, within the capital the variation is enormous. Barking and Dagenham can see you housed for pounds 51,647, whereas if you want to buy a home in Kensington and Chelsea, it will set you back a remarkable pounds 276,015.

Price rises have also been far more pronounced in London than elsewhere - further confirmation that the property boom remains to a large extent a London-driven phenomenon. Across the 33 boroughs, prices rose by 12.2 per cent. However, the average figure masked some extraordinary variations within individual boroughs. Camden house prices leapt the most, by over 26 per cent, to pounds 183,857. But the price of a detached Camden home almost doubled, to pounds 640,355 from pounds 375,038. By contrast, a detached home in Barnet actually fell, from pounds 282,690 to pounds 270,435.

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