Number of towns with increase in home sales at new low

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The number of towns recording an annual rise in home sales has fallen back to its lowest level since 2008, according to a report.

Just 40 per cent or 202 out of 500 towns tracked in England and Wales saw a rise in home sales in 2011, less than half the proportion found the previous year, when 82 per cent of towns experienced an increase.

Some 59 per cent of the towns that saw rises are in the North, compared with 41 per cent in the South, a reversal of the previous year’s figures when 53 per cent of “property sales hotspots” were in the South.

The report suggested this is due to a lack of homes being put on the market in southern regions over the last year, which has helped to keep prices up due to the restricted choice for buyers but has meant sales have been relatively low. Property sales have halved generally since the peak of the market in 2007.

For the purposes of the study, the “North” consists of the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands and Wales, whereas the South includes Greater London, the South East, South West and East of England.

Prices rose by 0.2 per cent annually on average across the 10 towns that saw the biggest drop in property sales, in contrast to the 4.5 per cent fall in house prices among the 10 towns recording the biggest sales rises.

Researchers found that 61 per cent of towns surveyed in both the North of England and East Anglia had an annual rise in sales, meaning these regions had the highest proportion of property sales hotspots, closely followed by the West Midlands which had 60 per cent.

But London, which has frequently recorded the strongest price rises, had the lowest proportion of sales hotspots in 2011 at just 16 per cent, having seen sales decline by six per cent annually.

Bilston near Wolverhampton was named as the top home sales hotspot overall, with the town recording a 30.7 per cent annual rise in sales, closely followed by Rugeley in Staffordshire, which saw a 30.6 per cent increase.

Suren Thiru, Lloyds TSB housing economist, said: “The overall level of housing market activity across England and Wales has weakened over the past year, reflecting the concerns over the outlook for the UK economy.

“Additionally, consumers are experiencing difficulties in raising the necessary deposit, which is preventing many potential home buyers from entering the market.

“Whilst a number of towns in the North have seen a significant rise in home sales, these increases have been from a historically low base.”