The worst place to have bought property this century

Bolton house prices have fallen 9% in the past 16 years

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If you bought property in the centre of Bolton at the start of the new millennium, then you have arguably made the worst possible property choice of the period. A new study from fixed-fee estate agent, eMoov.co.uk, claims that you would have lost more over this time on a home in Bolton than anywhere else in England and Wales.

In fact, it's the only place to have lost value over the past 16 years. At the start of the new millennium, the average house price in the centre of Bolton was £77,202, just under £8,000 less than the UK average. Now it has fallen 9% and is worth just £70,621 - while the UK average has soared to £221,254.

Why?

The problem, according to analysts, is partly due to the high number of buy-to-let investors with multiple properties in the area. They tend to buy and sell homes in bulk, at reduced prices, which is dragging down property prices in the centre of Bolton.

The area also suffers from low demand - as eMoov's latest National Hotspots Index found demand in Bolton as a whole is at just 28%, -13% less than the national average, placing the town well outside of the top 50 hottest spots (79th).

There is a real lack of wealth in the area. A study by the Joseph Rowntree foundation put Bolton third in its list of economically struggling cities - after Rochdale and Burnley.

According to HMRC, 23% of children in Bolton are living in poverty - because of cuts to welfare, a rise in zero hours contracts, and an increasing number of families who simply don't have enough money to live on. Some 16% of children are living in low income working families, and suffering from the fact that wages are simply not enough to look after the family on.

Founder and CEO of eMoov.co.uk, Russell Quirk, added: "It doesn't seem like things will be improving anytime soon with low demand for property across Bolton as a whole likely to cool the local market even further. You have to feel for those that have seen the value of their property drop in Bolton, it's almost the equivalent of everyone in the UK buying a lottery ticket and you being the only one that doesn't hit the jackpot."

The five areas to have seen the slowest growth are central Bolton, central Leicester - East of the Cathedral (which has risen 9% in the past 16 years); Aston and Duddeston in Birmingham (which is up 27%); the Woodhouse and Little London areas of Leeds (up 38%) and central Birmingham between the Jewellery Quarter and the Bullring (up 42%).

Hope?
It's not all bad news for Bolton, Leicester and Birmingham, however. A separate piece of eMoov research, the National Hotspots Index, published at the beginning of this year, actually put these areas in the top ten places that had seen demand from buyers grow the most in 2015.

The full top ten:
1. Sefton, which saw demand rise 89%
2. Bolton, with a 63% increase in demand
3. Leicester, where demand was up 62%
4. North Lanarkshire, which was up 59%
5. Wirral, up 58%
6. Rochdale, up 45%
7. Dudley, up 44%
8. Trafford, up 44%
9. Hounslow, up 43%
10. Birmingham, up 40%

There's every hope, therefore, that these areas have now reached a level of affordability that makes them more attractive to buyers. Meanwhile, many of these areas continue to see regeneration projects that also make them more attractive places to live.

But what do you think? Is now the time to be investing in these unloved spots? Is Bolton on the up? Let us know in the comments.

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