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Towns in the north of England see biggest increase in property sales

A report from leading lender the Halifax suggests that because these otherwise unremarkable towns have started from a lower base they are actually doing better than much better off locations in the south of the country.

Sales of homes in the Greater Manchester town of Bury have risen by 44% over the first six months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010, more than in any other town in England and Wales.
The substantial increase in property sales in Bury since 2010 has been driven by a marked rise in the level of activity at the lower end of the housing market with flats and terraced homes accounting for 77% of the overall rise in sales.
The four towns that recorded the biggest rises in residential property sales since 2010 are Bury, Leigh, Rugeley and Houghton Le Spring. Outside northern England, the seaside destination of Great Yarmouth recorded the biggest increase in home sales at 27%.
Despite the recent strong growth in home sales, total transaction levels in the ten top performing towns over the past year are still 42% lower than a decade ago. Sales in Bury – the country's leading property sales hotspot are 42% lower than 2001.
Nine of the ten towns that recorded the biggest declines in property sales over the past year are in southern England. The Hertfordshire town of Hoddesdon is down 39% and saw the largest drop in sales, followed by Buckingham at 34%. Aberdare in Wales is the only town outside southern England to appear among the ten worst performing towns with a decline of 33%.

This is stark contrast to last year’s results when, between 2009 and 2010, eight of the ten towns that recorded the biggest rises in property sales are in southern England.

All regions saw a fall in sales between the first halves of 2010 and 2011. The North recorded the smallest fall at -2.2%, the North West saw -4.8% and the West Midlands saw -4.9%.

The number of home sales in London fell by 11.3% over the period, more than in any other region. The South West saw a fall of 11.1% and in the South East sales were down 10.7%. In total, property sales across England and Wales have fallen by 8.7% over the past year.

Overall the number of property sales in England and Wales has fallen by 49% over the last ten years from 532,709 in the first half of 2001 to 271,113 over the same period in 2011. Home sales in the south have proved slightly more resilient with sales down by 48% compared with a 51% drop in the north.

‘A number of towns across England and Wales have experienced a significant rise in home sales over the past year despite the more subdued picture across the country as a whole,’ said Suren Thiru, Halifax housing economist.

‘Many of the top performing towns are in the north, reflecting a reversal of 2010 when the housing market in southern England outperformed the north. The relatively favourable levels of affordability in many of the top performing northern towns have helped to support housing market activity in these locations, albeit from historically low levels,’ added Thiru.