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Average House Prices in the UK: The North-South Divide

Published on December 21, 2015 by Compare My Move in News, Property Investment


The North-South divide is an issue that is not as black and white as people might think, as economic and cultural differences have contributed to the massive imbalance of the average house price within the UK.

The cultural and economic differences between the North and South have caused a long-standing divide in the UK for as long as most people can remember. Differences include average life expectancy, wages, and investment opportunities which are all perceived to be much lower in the North than the South.

However, the most noticeable divide appears within the housing market. This is a familiar topic for many, and even more relevant with the recent report that in 2016, house prices are set to rise by a further 6%. At present, figures from the Land Registry indicate that the average house in London costs £503,431, while the average house in England and Wales costs £186,350.

But why the divide in housing?

One of the main explanations is the consequence of industrial decline within the North. During the industrial revolution, the North flourished through the mining of raw materials such as coal and iron. However, this led to a reliance in this area, so when heavy industry was outsourced to developing countries, work in the North rapidly declined.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the North was hit the hardest by the The Great Depression, while the South enjoyed the development of suburbs, chemical factories and car industries.

After this, the shift from shipping to a road-based economy favoured towns near new motorway networks and port towns within the south of the country.

Over the next few decades, businesses originally based in the North migrated to the South.

As a result, the lack of work available meant lower average wages, high unemployment and underinvestment. Still to this day, these economic issues contribute to the current housing climate and average house price in the North.

Why is the South so expensive?

In contrast, living in London (or the South) means higher average earnings and full employment. The capital accounts for 22% of the country’s GDP, and 79% of private sector jobs since 2010.

London is the third most expensive city in the world, with the second most expensive public transport system. But people will live where there is job availability.

This also means a shortage of housing availability. Scarcity drives prices up. It’s not that the space doesn’t exist, but people want to protect their ‘green belt land’, which are areas protected from development. Coupled with tight restrictions on planning permission, this results in higher average house prices.

According to a BBC report in September 2015, the North-South divide is once again evident in light of the difference in house price growth. House prices in the North-East and North-West of England and Wales saw growth of less than 1%, whereas prices in the East and the South-East of England went up by 8.4% and 7.6%, respectively.

To put this into perspective and illustrate the divide, £180,000 can get you a 4-bed detached house with a living room, kitchen, two bathrooms, three toilets, a garage, front and rear garden in Bridgend, Wales. For the same price in Canterbury, London, all you can get is a one-bedroom flat with a communal hall and garden, as well as a joint reception, dining and living room.

According to research, to have a good quality of life as well as affordable housing, Cumbria in the North is the best option.

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