Affordability improves across UK

Halifax said the general fall in house prices between 2007 and 2010 has improved affordability across Britain and increased the choice of property available to prospective home buyers.

For those further up the property ladder a budget of £250,000 could now buy all property types in half of the 10 biggest cities in Britain, compared to two in 2007.

London is the only major British city where the average price of all property types remains above £250,000.

The research also reveals that seven of the 10 post towns with the highest house price growth since 2007 are in the south of England.

The Wiltshire town of Westbury recorded the biggest increase in house prices with the average house price increasing by 8.9% between 2007 and 2010. Shetland in Scotland (5.1%) and Barnstaple in Devon (4.2%) were the next best performers.

In the North, Altrincham (3.3%) and Northallerton (3.0%) were among the ten best performers.

The eight towns that saw the biggest house price falls since 2007 are all in the North. The South Tyneside town of Jarrow saw the biggest fall where the average house price fell by 31.4% over the period. Outside the North, Maidenhead in the South East recorded the largest house price decline (-27.1%).

Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, said: "The higher performance of the housing market in southern England over the last three years reflects the stronger economic performance of this part of the country compared with the rest of the UK. Looking forward nationally, we expect limited movement in house prices overall this year but with the risks on the downside."

While only 6% of the towns surveyed saw a rise in house prices over the past three years, Ellis suggests that opportunities remain for both homeowners and prospective buyers.

He said: "It is important to remember that those buyers who bought their homes five or more years ago are likely to still have a healthy level of equity in their property. On the buyer side, monthly mortgage costs have now nearly halved from their peak in 2007, when 50% of a typical first-time buyer's income was devoted to paying their mortgage."