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House prices 'starting to fall'

28 April 2003
House prices have fallen for the first time in 18 months, according to the latest property inflation figures from property website Hometrack.

The Southeast appears to have been worst hit, while the North continues to record steady rises.

However, overall, prices in England and Wales fell 0.1 per cent in April, continuing 11 months of steady decline in house price inflation since last May's peak of 2.6 per cent.

Hometrack also predicted that there was insufficient excess demand to lift prices over the next few months as the number of new buyers rose by less than 1 per cent in April, against an 8 per cent lift in the number of new properties listed.

The average house now costs £135,000,or more than four and a half times the average UK household income.

The survey showed that 23 counties in the south of England registered a fall in average prices, with a fall of 0.9 per cent in Surrey.

Hometrack identified a clear North-South divide in housing price trends from the River Severn to The Wash. Prices in 24 northern counties rose in the last month, with a 0.6 per cent gain in average house prices for county Durham.

John Wriglesworth, Hometrack's housing economist, commented, 'Low interest rates, high employment and growing income may remain across the country but the price rises seen in the north conceal a very unsettled picture in the south.'