Figures from the Land Registry have revealed that house prices dipped last month, but have risen 5.6% in a year to an average of £169,124. As ever, there were wide variations across the country, and as usual London led the charge - up more than 12% in a year to an astonishing £414,490. However, within the data was a surprise. Outside London, one town stood out for major growth during the month.
And that town was Blackpool.
The Land Registry figures revealed that it had grown 3.1% in the month - more than anywhere else outside London. This makes up a sizeable chunk of all the growth that Blackpool has seen in the last 12 months - as it has risen 7.9% in that time. It was a long way ahead of its closest contender, Bournemouth, which saw prices rise 1.8% in the month.
The growth is partly a reflection of how badly the market has suffered in the last few years. At the end of last year, prices in Blackpool were down just over a third since the peak.
At that point, the Centre for Social Justice described British seaside towns such as Blackpool as "dumping grounds for people facing problems such as unemployment, social exclusion and substance abuse" . The town had gained a reputation for attracting unemployed people looking for somewhere cheap to stay, and house prices were being slashed in a desperate attempt to find buyers.
Why?However, this year things have been brighter for Blackpool, for three main reasons. The first is simply that the rising tide does eventually lift all boats. As prices rise across the country, confidence will eventually start to grow everywhere and will be reflected in house price rises.
The second is a factor of how cheap houses had become in Blackpool. They eventually reached a level where they made financial sense for buy-to-let landlords. Low property prices, combined with a strong rental market means that HSBC named Blackpool as the second most profitable place for landlords - with a rental yield of 7.81%.
The third is that Blackpool is in the midst of major regeneration. The £220 million project was started in 2011, with a superstore, shops and council offices bringing jobs to the town. Meanwhile, the town's tram system was upgraded last year, and an extension has just been agreed.
There remains the question of whether this is a short-term blip or a long-term trend. Moneyweek published an interesting chart a few years ago comparing house prices in Kensington to Blackpool over time. They highlighted that while they tended to move apart for long periods of time, so far they have always come back together. Sadly for property investors in Blackpool, they weren't arguing for a spectacular boom in the town - they have more faith in a bust coming to central London.