The two towns that bucked the housing slump!

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What have South Lakeland and Rochford in Essex got in common?

At first glance not very much at all, but these two places are the only towns or districts in the UK where average house prices are currently higher than during the peak of the market in 2007.

Everywhere else in the UK has seen prices slump over the last five years, and they haven't yet crept back to 2007 levels, according to new research out from Halifax.

Even the two star performers – Rochford and South Lakeland – have only just pipped their peak prices with average prices in Rochford just 1% higher than in 2007 and in South Lakeland a minuscule 0.1%.


North/South divide
According to Halifax there has been a strong North South divide since the peak of the market, with the South performing much better than the North of England and Wales.

In fact, of the top 20 performing towns and districts, just four are outside the South - South Lakeland, Derbyshire Dales, Ceredigion, and Aberdeenshire.

The first three of these are popular holiday areas and Halifax reckons that significant housing demand from retirees and second homebuyers has helped to prop up prices. The final place outside the South, Aberdeenshire, has been buoyed by the local oil industry.

But even of the 'top 20 performers' a massive 18 still have lower prices now than in 2007. So what is so special about South Lakeland and Rochford that has meant they have actually seen an increase in prices in the last five years?

Local view
South Lakeland is exactly the type of the popular holiday location that Halifax's experts referred to and local estate agent Michael Graham, from the Windermere branch of Hackney & Leigh, agrees that the area is extremely resilient: "We are fortunate and prices have fared better than in other places because we are in the Lake District and tough planning rules limit supply.

"We are an affluent area, underpinned by an extra level of demand because it is such a beautiful place so we will always have a less severe downturn than other areas."

But despite agreeing with the sentiment Graham disputes the actual figures.

"While I agree that this area performs well I think an average property is probably between 5% and 10% down on the 2007 peak of the market. Whilst every property is individual and there are wide variations, if we lump them into one average, I can't see how Halifax's numbers come out showing that prices are up here.

"Of course lake frontage houses they have continued to rise in value but the vast majority of properties are worth less than in 2007."

Lesley Kirkman, director of Tudor Estates, Southend-on-Sea which covers Rochford, says that strong commuter links have helped support prices there.

"Property is moving quite quickly. If something is priced right we are getting asking price or very close. We have a lack of stock in this area which means there is a lot of competition for properties which is great.

"I would say that prices here are at 2005/6 levels, rather than being back to peak levels. We are lucky as this is still a fairly cheap commuter town and the new train station and airport development mean it is becoming more popular."

Prices more than halved in NI
At the other end of the scale the biggest decline in the last five years has been in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, where the average price has more than halved from £213,844 in 2007 to £103,383 in 2011.

There are similar dramatic falls in other parts of Northern Ireland, which accounts for the worst nine performing towns or districts in the entire UK since the 2007 peak.

Prices in Northern Ireland rose in the years preceding 2007 and at the peak of the market they were the highest of anywhere in the UK bar London and the South East. Now the region has slumped to the bottom of the house price chart.

Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, commented: "Those areas that have weathered the storm best are nearly all in the South whereas those areas worst affected are all outside Southern England. Northern Ireland has done particularly badly as much of the sharp gains in the years prior to 2007 have since been reversed."

North/South split
The following tables show the best five performing areas since 2007 and the worst five:

The UK's best performing towns

The UK's best performing towns


Source: Halifax

5 Worst Performers 2007 - 2011
Local Authority District Region Average House Price 2011 £ % Change 2011 -2007
Craigavon Northern Ireland 101,383 -53%
Newtownabbey Northern Ireland 107,992 -50%
Ballymena Northern Ireland 120,894 -50%
North Down Northern Ireland 145,974 -50%
Belfast Northern Ireland 117,077 -48%

Source: Halifax

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