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Hundreds of thousands of homeowners trapped in negative equity

Written by: Christina Hoghton
Average property prices are still below peak levels in over half of UK towns and cities.

Hundreds of thousands of UK homeowners who bought property in 2007 are likely to be stuck in negative equity, according to research from online estate agents

This despite the fact that today’s property market is showing double-digit house price growth across the UK. But the average figures belie huge variations in regional price movements.

According to HouseSimple’s research, today’s average property prices in more than half (53%) of UK towns and cities are still below average 2007 prices. While average London prices have risen a staggering 56% since 2007, that is not the case across large swathes of the country, particularly in the North of England.

The research, which looked at 75 major towns and cities in England and Wales, found that 17 of the 20 most affected towns and cities since the financial crash are in the North of England, with the North West the worst hit by post-recession negative equity – 40% of the top 20 negative equity towns and cities are in the region.

Biggest losers

The worst affected towns are Blackpool and Middlesbrough, where house prices are still almost 30% lower than pre-crash highs. Blackburn and Liverpool are also in the top five worst affected towns and cities, with average house prices still 25% and 23% lower respectively than before the crash.

Alex Gosling, CEO of online estate agents said: “Thousands of people around the country have had to put their lives on hold, unable to move because they are trapped in negative equity.

“Unfortunately, the North of England has been slower to recover losses suffered during and after 2008. And anyone wanting to relocate for work or family reasons faces a less than appealing choice, either making a loss on the sale of their property or staying put and waiting until the price of their house at least recovers to the price they paid.”

Strong in the South

House price recovery in the South has been much stronger than the North. Not surprisingly, London’s house prices have more than recovered, and average prices today are almost £200,000 higher than 2007 levels.

Property prices in Winchester also seem to be recession proof, up 44% to £447,046, compared to average 2007 prices. Meanwhile, average prices in the commuter town of Stevenage are 39% higher than pre-recession values.

Sale and Stockport in the North West, where house prices now average £252,203 and £206,368 respectively (25% and 22% more than 2007), buck the trend in the region; they’re the only towns outside the South of England in the top 20 towns and cities where house prices have more than recovered to pre-recession levels.

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