North-South Divide in Repossessions Widest in Six Years

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The North-South divide in housing repossessions has widened to its largest in six years, with 33% more repossessions in the North than in the South, according to detailed research released this morning by e.surv chartered surveyors.

e.surv’s analysis of court-ordered repossessions in the year to Q2 2013, broken down by post code, found there were 3.2 repossessions per 1,000 households in the North, a third more than the South, which saw 2.4 repossessions per 1,000 households. This is the largest gap since the onset of the financial crisis. In the year to Q2 2007, there were 14% more repossessions in the North than in the South, a figure which has been steadily rising.

In total, repossessions fell 17% in the year to July, with 66,544 repossession orders in 2012-13, as opposed to 77,856 in 2011-12. The average rate of orders per 1000 households fell from 3.3 to 2.8.

In the North, 72% of towns had more repossessions than the UK average, compared with just 24% of towns in the South. This trend is most accentuated in the North West, where eight in ten towns (79%) had above the UK average number of repossessions.

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Although the North-South divide in repossessions is widening, the rate of repossessions is falling across the nation. There were 17% fewer repossessions in the South in 2012-13 compared to in 2011-12, but just 16% fewer in the North. This indicates that while Northern towns are recovering, they are doing so at a slower rate than the South.

This has been a consequence of continued economic hardship and job losses in these areas. The North West has shown the greatest rise in unemployment in the UK, with 9% of the working population out of work, according to the ONS, a 0.8% rise over the last quarter. This has forced more borrowers to struggle with mortgage repayments, which in turn has led to the higher than average rate of repossessions. Similarly, the North East and Yorkshire also have some of the highest levels of unemployment, with 10% and 9% of the working population idle in these regions.

Richard Sexton, director of e.surv chartered surveyors, explains: “On a national level, repossessions are falling, as the economy slowly crawls back to health. Mortgages are becoming cheaper, wages are slowly picking up, and the labour market is showing more vitality. But the recovery has been more pronounced in the South, driven forward by booming property and labour markets in the capital and home-counties. This has been slow to filter through to the North, where staggeringly, seven out of ten Northern towns are repossession hot-spots. In areas like Yorkshire and the North West, wages are recovering more slowly, and fewer jobs on offer. As a region, the North has traditionally depended on public sector jobs, but a squeeze in public sector funding has led to loss of jobs for many, and very slow pay increases for others. Pay increases that are consistently below the rate of inflation, have further tightened household budgets, and caused many to fall behind on mortgage repayments.”

There is still a long way to go before the Northern property market returns to its pre-recession health, and all the while the North is still playing catch-up, and falling further and further behind the South.”

Repossessions by postcode area

North-West towns suffered the most from court repossessions in the year to July 2013, with four of the worst five towns for repossessions in this region. In Chester, the town with the highest rate of repossessions in the UK, there were 8.4 repossessions per 1,000 households in the year to July 2013 – three times the UK average of 2.8 repossessions per 1,000 households. Blackpool, Oldham and Wigan were also among the five worst UK towns for repossessions, with 4.5, 4.3 and 4.2 repossessions per 1,000 households respectively.

Top Ten Repossession Postcodes

Postcode area

Repos/1,000 households

Total number in Year to Q2 2013

Chester

8.4

961

Blackpool

4.5

570

Romford

4.4

936

Oldham

4.3

829

Wigan

4.2

541

Luton

4.2

565

Bradford

4.1

1002

Doncaster

4.1

1356

Croydon

4.1

644

Northampton

3.8

966

Lancaster (2.5), Liverpool (2.4) and Carlisle (2.0), were the only towns in the North West to have lower than the average number of repossessions.

Repossessions by region

Although the South West and the South East have below average rates of repossessions, they show some of the biggest annual increase in repossession rates. Taunton, Torquay and Plymouth all experienced a rise in repossessions in the year to July, with repossessions increasing by 34%, 30% and 28% respectively. In the South East, Brighton and Reading experienced repossession rises of 30% and 27%. But the town in which repossessions increased the most over the past year was Carlisle, where the rate of repossessions grew 37%.

Repossession Regions

Region

Repossessions/1,000 households

North West

3.4

Wales

3.4

Yorkshire & the Humber

3.2

North East

3.0

East Midlands

3.0

West Midlands

2.9

UK Average

2.8

London

2.5

East of England

2.4

South East

2.2

South West

2.1

Scotland

0.3

London not out of the woods

Despite being below the UK average, London shows a big disparity in repossessions. East Central London (0.7), West Central London (1.2), and West London (1.4) had the second, third and fourth lowest repossession rates, outpaced only by Galashiels in Scotland (0.3). But some areas in Greater London have far higher repossessions rates, with Croydon (4.1) the ninth worst town for repossessions in the UK, and Ilford (3.5) and Enfield (3.3) both with a rate of repossessions that is far higher than the average town.

Richard Sexton explains: “The London example shows it’s not as simple as purely North and South, as the capital also contains some areas where repossessions are high. House prices may be high in the capital, and the labour market may be stronger, but in such densely populated areas, there remain borrowers who are struggling. Many borrowers have seen their finances slowly eroded by high inflation and rising living costs. This has been particularly potent in the expensive capital, where less affluent borrowers – those who could only just afford to buy – have been badly affected.”

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