North-South housing price divide widens

THE chasm between house prices in the north and south of England widened in the month of July despite nationwide figures remaining broadly static, according to the latest Hometrack housing market survey.<br /><br />Overall house prices remained unchanged for a third consecutive month, Hometrack said. <br /><br />But among the 10 per cent of postcodes which did report an increase, the vast majority were located in the South, where the growing scarcity of supply is putting upward pressure on prices. In contrast, housing agents in the North reported continuing tough market conditions with weak demand and a surplus of stock.<br /><br />&ldquo;This reinforces the emergence of a clear split in market conditions between the north and south of the country,&rdquo; said Hometrack&rsquo;s director of research Richard Donnell.<br /><br />The north/south divide was highlighted yet further in this month&rsquo;s survey, with the average time taken to sell houses in the South below nine weeks, compared to above 10 weeks in the North. In London, average sale time has fallen to just 5.8 weeks, the lowest since March last year.<br /><br />Donnell added that talk of green shoots over recent months has proved to be &ldquo;little more than an unsustainable and short term blip&rdquo;, triggered by opportunistic cash buyers and families snapping up homes in the supply-strapped South.<br /><br />&ldquo;The housing market remains in a fragile state,&rdquo; Donnell added. &ldquo;When demand does start to feed back it will do so relatively slowly, starting in the equity driven markets of London and the South and only filtering down the rungs of the housing ladder as the economic recovery starts to gain momentum.&rdquo;<br /><br />However, the proportion of the asking price being achieved continues to narrow. In July, it stood at 91.5 per cent, against 88.3 per cent in January.