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Last Updated: Friday, 27 October 2006, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
UK house prices 'nearly tripled'
Browsing an estate agent's window
Watching house prices rise has been dispiriting for would-be home owners
Average house prices have nearly tripled across the whole country during the past decade, says the Halifax.

The mortgage lender's latest report highlights how house prices have far outstripped the UK's economic growth and rising incomes during that time.

The price of the average UK house has risen by 187% to 179,000 since February 1996.

Greater London saw the largest regional rise (240%) and Cornwall is the county where prices have risen fastest (274%).

"The South West has emerged as a highly sought after destination, led by Cornwall," said Tim Crawford, an economist at the Halifax.

Among individual towns, Newry in Northern Ireland topped the league for the biggest increase, with its local house prices going up by 371% to 181,000.

Economic prosperity

The Halifax says the reason for the long boom in property prices lies firmly with the economy.

REGIONAL HOUSE PRICE RISES SINCE 1996
Greater London - 240%
N. Ireland - 231%
South West - 213%
East Anglia - 199%
South East - 196%
Wales - 195%
East Midlands - 190%
North - 187%
West Midlands - 176%
North West - 175%
Yorks & Humber - 170%
Scotland - 110%
UK average - 187%
Source: Halifax

The UK has had 10 years of steady economic growth, falling unemployment, low inflation and thus low interest rates.

By contrast, the early 90s were characterised by a house price slump.

This was prompted by high inflation, high interest rates and a severe recession that saw nearly three million out of work and hundreds of thousands of people losing their homes through repossession.

But since February 1996, the rise in the UK's average UK property cost from 62,000 to 179,000 means home owners have experienced a gain of 10.6% a year.

Average earnings, on the other hand, have risen by only 54%, or 4.2% a year.

Celtic fringe

The rise in house prices has not been simply due to prices in London - the traditional hotspot - dragging up the national average.

The housing market in Northern Ireland has seen well above average house price growth
Tim Crawford, Halifax

As well as the sharp increase in Cornwall, six of the top 10 counties for house price rises have been in Wales, with Carmarthenshire up by 264%.

Meanwhile Northern Ireland has been going through its own boom, with property prices up by 25% in the past year alone.

For that reason Newry is joined by Antrim, where prices are up by 321%.

"The housing market in Northern Ireland has seen well above average house price growth, led by Newry and Antrim, two of the five top performing towns in the UK since 1996," said Mr Crawford.

High prices

Despite all this, when it comes to the actual cost of buying a home, London and the South East continue to dominate the leagues for the most expensive places to live.

Collapsed railway tunnel at Gerrards cross
Gerrards Cross - famed for high house prices and a collapsed railway tunnel

London house prices are now typically 269,000, followed by the rest of the South East at 233,000.

At an average 314,000 per property, Surrey is still the most expensive county, especially in the London fringes such as Walton upon Thames and Weybridge.

And the most expensive towns are synonymous with prosperity - Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire (average price 713,000), followed by the London boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster.

Gerrards Cross estate agent Trevor Kent joked: "We've no water in our pond and a tunnel with a hole in it, and yet people still want to pay a fortune to live here".

Development

One apparent oddity looms out of the mass of statistics thrown up from the Halifax's calculations.

There's been a lot of regeneration going on
Karen Salt, Seaham estate agent

Seaham in County Durham, a coastal former mining town, is third in the list of towns where prices have risen fastest.

Houses there have gone up in price by 326% in the past decade or so, to an average of 142,000 each.

Karen Salt, manager of the local Halifax estate agency, where she has worked for the last 15 years, admitted this had taken her by surprise.

She said most of the change had happened in the past five years, thanks to new housing being built.

"There's been a lot of new development in the area with new estates being built. There's been a lot of regeneration going on."


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How house prices have 'nearly trebled' since 1996



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