Shocking rise in the price of a house

By Mark Heath and Ted JeoryTHE cost of buying a house in East Anglia has rocketed by an average of 155% over the last 10 years, a new survey has revealed.

By Mark Heath and Ted Jeory

THE cost of buying a house in East Anglia has rocketed by an average of 155% over the last 10 years, a new survey has revealed.

It has prompted community watchdogs to voice fears first-time buyers and people on low incomes may never be able to get a foot on the housing ladder in the region.

The survey compiled research carried out by the Halifax Estate Agents, which analysed data from 60 counties.

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In Essex, the average house price has leapt from £69,278 in 1993 to £188,426 this year - a rise of 172%, the ninth highest in the UK.

In Suffolk, the average house price has increased from £59,617 in 1993 to £153,998 this year, a jump of 158%.

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Both counties are well ahead of the national average, which has seen prices rise from £65,025 to £154,503, an increase of 138%.

Stephen Scrase, secretary of the Essex branch of the National Association of Estate Agents, said: “I think these increases have been across the board and not just in certain pockets of the county.

“However, there are some hotspots like Lexden, where I would say it's almost impossible for first-time buyers to get on the ladder."

He added parents were become increasingly involved in their children's future living arrangements.

“What I have noticed is more and more parents buying properties as rental investments with their children in mind,” said Mr Scrase.

“They'll buy years in advance, rent out the place and then maybe hand over the mortgage to the children years later because they know how difficult it is with rising prices now.

“Some parents are even downsizing, selling off their property now and buying two smaller places, renting one out and handing it over later.”

Gary Smith, chairman of the Suffolk branch of the National Association of Estate Agents, described the survey as “interesting”.

He added: “House prices have gone up across East Anglia, and particularly in this part of Suffolk, because it is very attractive to people from London and the home counties as our quality of life is perhaps better.

“It's true that first-time buyers have suffered quite recently because of the increased prices. However, councils are trying to do something to address that by making developers incorporate affordable housing into their proposals.

“In terms of the future of house prices, I think we will see a gradual increase - provided interest rates stay as they are.”

Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural charity Suffolk ACRE, called for greater provision of affordable housing and detailed individual profiling of villages to assess housing needs.

“It's getting to the state where people are going to be priced out of the housing market completely and first-time buyers won't be able to get their foot on the ladder at all,” he warned.

“The issue is not necessarily the price rises - although it can have an effect because we tend to get lower incomes in Suffolk - but the key problem is the lack of supply, particularly in rural areas.”

Dr Gibson added: “If you have very limited housing stock in villages, people coming in with high incomes can purchase them and, if there isn't any replacement, the price shoots up over the rest of the market.

“Why should all the young people and those on low income be squeezed out of the villages and have to move to areas where there is provision?

“Suffolk ACRE has been arguing for a number of years for village profiling to set out what the needs are and then plan for sustainable growth on that basis.”

David Elliott, Essex area manager for homeless charity Shelter, said although homelessness remained a serious problem in the county, the house price situation was less acute than in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Back then, we had the worst combination of a housing bubble and high interest rates. When the bubble burst, people were forced on to the streets,” he added.

“However, what we are hearing anecdotally is more and more private landlords selling up to try to capitalise now on the increases.

“The worry here is that with shorthold tenancy agreements relatively simple to break, people can quite easily be evicted and made homeless, which can be a disaster.”

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