The median price of residential properties in towns in 2020 ranged from £39,000 in Ferryhill, County Durham, to £1,050,000 in Northwood, which borders Hertfordshire and North London.
Of the 10 towns with the highest median house prices, six of them were in the South East, while 6 of the 10 lowest were in the North East: all the 10 lowest were mining and industrial legacy communities in the North of England or South Wales.
Over the decade from 2010 to 2020, 33% of towns in the North East experienced declining house prices, far higher than any other region, while no towns in the South East, East of England, East Midlands, West Midlands or the South West saw a decline.
London saw lower growth in median house prices during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period while smaller built-up areas had the highest growth.
Average and larger sized properties experienced higher price growth during the same period when compared with smaller properties, though the trend varied by settlement type.
Towns which had higher income deprivation experienced slower growth over the decade from 2010 to 2020 compared with lower deprivation towns and this trend continued over the COVID-19 pandemic period.
This section explores median house prices in 1,082 towns in England and 104 in Wales, and how they have changed over the period 2010 to 2020. Differences in house prices by region and income deprivation are described. This is followed by an investigation of changes to house prices just before and during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in January 2020 to April 2021. We identify house price trends according to settlement types, town characteristics and property size, to investigate how the pandemic may have accelerated existing trends in the housing market.
The towns definition is based on the built-up area (BUA) geography, and, where they exist, built-up area subdivisions (BUASD), with a population between 5,000 and 225,000 at the census in 2011. The towns definition was first introduced in an article Understanding towns in England and Wales: an introduction, published on 9 July 2019. Additionally, we provide comparisons with cities (excluding London), London (separate to other cities) and smaller built-up areas, for example, villages. All these definitions are based on the same BUA geography. Throughout the article, we collectively refer to these different places as settlement types.
House prices in towns across England and Wales
From the bulletin House price statistics for small areas in England and Wales: year ending December 2020, the median house price in England and Wales in 2020 was £250,000. England had a median price of £259,000, while Wales had a median price of £170,000. Not only did house prices differ between countries, but they varied vastly at a region and town level.
It should be noted that the analysis of median house prices presented in this article is based on median point in time averages and no attempt has been made to control for the quality of property transacted over time. Care should be taken when making comparisons over time. The analysis in this article is not directly comparable with the HM Land Registry UK House Price Index.
Figure 1 below shows an interactive map with house prices by year and town. The scale on the left-hand side has been selected automatically.
Figure 1: Median house prices in towns in England and Wales
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The town with the highest median price in 2020 was Northwood, a town situated on the border of London and Herthfordshire. Northwood has had the highest median house price each year since 2009, with a median price of £1.05 million. In comparison, Ferryhill in County Durham in the North East had the lowest median house price at £39,000 in 2020.
Of the 10 towns with the highest prices, six were in the South East of England and four were in the East of England, all within commuting distance to London. Of the 10 towns with the lowest prices, six were in the North East, three were in Wales and one was in the North West. Within Wales the three towns that appear in the bottom 10 are all located in the South Wales Valleys. Each of the towns in the bottom 10 were mining and industrial legacy communities in the North of England or South Wales. More information on how mining and industrial legacy areas were identified can be found in ONS 2011 residential-based area classifications.
The town with the highest median price in Wales in 2020 was Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan, with a median house price of £291,000, while Ferndale had the lowest at £60,000. This is a difference of £231,000 between the area with the highest and lowest house prices, which was considerably smaller than the difference of over £1 million observed in England.
Turning to price change between 2010 and 2020, Figure 4 shows the percentage change in median price of all towns broken down by region. Iver Heath in the South East experienced the largest increase of 115% between 2010 and 2020. This contrasts with Ferryhill in the North East, which had the largest decrease of 47%.
There were considerable differences in the rates and direction of change in house prices between regions. Of the 10 towns that experienced the largest increases, four were in the South East, five within the East of England and one in the East Midlands. No towns in the South East, East of England, East Midlands, West Midlands, or South West experienced a decline in median house price.
Meanwhile, all 10 of the towns experiencing the largest decreases were in the North East, with many of these towns also having the lowest median house prices (Figure 3). Overall, the North East has seen a much larger proportion of its towns (33%) experience a decline in house prices compared with Wales (4%), the North West (2%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (1%), which were the only other regions with towns experiencing decline.
There were also marked differences in changes to house prices within regions as well as between them. Price changes in towns in the North East had more variation over the decade compared with any other region. Changes to house prices were most even across towns in the West Midlands. When we further examine Figure 4 below, we see that flats were more likely to see a decline in prices over the decade, compared with other property types across many towns in each region of England, and Wales.
Figure 4: The North East had the highest proportion of towns with declining property prices
Change in median price, towns in England and Wales, 2020 compared with 2010
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We now move on to look at prices by a town’s characteristics. Figure 5 shows median house prices between 2010 and 2020 by a town’s income deprivation classification. Income deprivation for towns was first introduced in Understanding towns in England and Wales: an introduction and we have used the same classifications for this analysis. Towns were classified into low, middle, and high deprivation based on the proportion of the town experiencing deprivation relating to low income.
Higher deprivation towns have seen median house prices increase at a slower rate than middle and low deprivation towns. Higher deprivation towns saw a median price increase of 28.4%, whereas middle and lower deprivation towns experienced increases of 36.6% and 39.9% respectively. It should be noted that there is a relationship between region and the number of towns which were in the various deprivation categories. More on this can be found in Understanding towns in England and Wales: an introduction.
In our previous articles Understanding towns in England and Wales: spatial analysis and Understanding towns in England and Wales: population and demographic analysis, we explored towns by population and employment change. Figure 6 below shows a plot of percentage change in median house prices against percentage change in population. This compares 2019 with 2009 as these were the periods explored previously. We see a slight positive relationship between change in median house prices and change in population; towns which experienced higher population growth tended to see higher growth in median house prices. However, there is a high degree of variance across different towns. Figure 7 below shows a similar plot, though this time it compares percentage change in median house prices with percentage change in employment over the same period. The relationship in this case is unclear.
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Understanding towns in England and Wales: house price analysis
Dataset | Released 18 October 2021
House price data for towns in England and Wales, 1995 to 2020, and index data by settlement type from January 2020 to April 2021.
Towns, cities and Greater London
This article is part of a series in which the Office for National Statistics (ONS) provides new data and analysis on towns in England and Wales. Therefore, the definition of a “town” in this output, follows on from previous ONS publications using built-up area subdivision boundaries (or built-up area boundaries where no subdivisions exist). Built-up areas (BUA) and built-up area subdivisions (BUASD) were created as part of the 2011 Census outputs and refer to urban areas defined as “irreversibly urban in character”. To be classified as a town, the 2011 Census population of the BUASD (or BUA) had to be between 5,000 and 225,000 (see Table 2). Within this context, 1,082 urban settlements in England and 104 in Wales were identified.
|Smaller BUA||< 5,000||5,370||4,944||426|
|Small town||5,000 – 20,000||748||662||86|
|Medium town||20,000 – 75,000||347||331||16|
|Large town||75,000 – 225,000||91||89||2|
|City||> 225,000 excluding London||19||18||1|
Download this table Table 2: Urban settlements used in the analysis, England and Wales, 2011.xls .csv
It needs to be recognised that this is a statistical approach to examining settlements, and that not every town in the list will have “town” status. Some of the smaller built-up areas included will be villages, and there will be many of the larger places included that are small cities. However, the aim has been to make sure as many towns as possible are included within the analysis, and for statistical analysis it makes sense to group these medium sized urban settlements together. We chose the upper population limit of 225,000 to include the largest towns in the country, namely Reading and Northampton. More information on this town classification can be found in our previous publications.
For comparison purposes, any built-up area boundaries with less than 5,000 residents on 2011 Census Day were classified in the main text as smaller built-up areas and mostly cover smaller settlements. Built-up areas in London with 5,000 residents or above have been separated into a London grouping and within the data tables we have also split them into Inner and Outer London, consistent with previous publications. Built-up areas and built-up area subdivisions with less than 5,000 residents in London have been classified as smaller built-up areas. Cities in this publication were based upon built-up area boundaries outside the London region with a population above 225,000.
Please note that the built-up areas geography is not defined for Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Other towns classifications
In this article, we used the same definition and classification of coastal towns used in the ONS article, Coastal Towns in England and Wales: October 2020, released on 6 October 2020.
Additionally, using a framework proposed in our previous article, Understanding towns in England and Wales: an introduction, the towns have been grouped according to their level of income deprivation (lower deprivation towns, middle deprivation towns and higher deprivation towns).
Income deprivation rankings were calculated separately for England and Wales. Because percentiles of income deprivation are relative to each country, percentile 1 of England is not the same as percentile 1 of Wales.Back to table of contents
This article uses data from HM Land Registry to provide statistics on the price paid and number of residential property transactions for properties that were sold in England and Wales. Properties sold at a discount to the market level, such as properties sold under the Right to Buy scheme, are not included in these statistics. This dataset contains property-related information and no personal data.
These data were linked to the Valuation Office Agency council tax property attributes dataset to supplement the price data with information on internal floor area in metres squared and number of bedrooms. Again, this dataset does not contain information about individuals or households.
The main set of official statistics for house prices in the England and Wales come from the UK House Price Index: July 2021 and House Price Statistics for Small Areas in England and Wales: year ending December 2020.
Unlike the UK House Price Index, the estimates in this publication have not been quality adjusted to account for changes in quality and composition. In line with other ONS housing outputs, we have not adjusted prices for inflation. Additionally, to smooth out seasonal effects, we have used 12 month rolling averages when analysing prices over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic period.
In some small towns there have been fewer than five house sales in a period. In these cases, we have suppressed the estimates as the price is likely to be highly volatile from period-to-period with such small counts. Care should be exercised when interpreting prices for smaller towns with low sales counts as a small number of transactions could be contributing to extreme changes in price. More information on quality and the effect of coronavirus on the data can be found in the latest release of the UK House Price Index: July 2021, section 7.Back to table of contents
This article is a collaboration between the Integrated Data Analysis Team and the Centre for Sub-National Analysis at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It is the fifth in a series of towns articles and builds upon the previous article, Understanding towns in England and Wales: population and demographic analysis, published in February 2021. A further article on towns and businesses is likely to be released in 2021, with more articles in the series planned for 2022.
Our current work on towns focuses on England and Wales only, as the built-up areas’ geography is only defined for these countries. However, both Scotland and Northern Ireland have alternative definitions available and as such ONS are investigating adding Scotland and Northern Ireland to future Understanding Towns outputs.Back to table of contents
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