Homeowners in the North East are the only people to have seen property values plunge in the last year, official new figures show.
The average price of a house across England and Wales grew by 4.4% in the 12 months to December to reach £167,353 typically. But the North East saw property values edged down by 0.1% to £97,596 on average.
Caroline Pattinson, managing director of estate agent Pattinson, said that in terms of affordability, the statistics can be taken as a positive.
She said: “I don’t see it necessarily as a negative that house prices are staying steady. I have friends in the south of England and in London who are qualified professionals and aren’t on the property ladder and if they were able to buy, the prices would make their eyes water. Then you think about what you can get for your money in the North East. We have properties that are affordable for average people.
“We’ve seen a lot more movement in the market and we’re up in sales and are getting close to the peak of the market in terms of sales.”
The one area that Ms Pattinson did identify as needing a boost was more properties being put on the market.
She said: “We are struggling with properties coming on the market meaning there’s increased demand so there’s more buyers looking. Sellers are often getting offers from multiple people so that drives up prices.”
At a local authority level, Hartlepool saw the biggest annual price fall across the country, with a 6.6% drop taking average prices to £70,350.
Meanwhile, London house prices leapt by 11.2% over 2013 - an increase which is more than double the national average.
The figures also show how house sales lifted in 2013 as life returned to the housing market. From July to October 2013, the latest months for which figures are available, an average of just over 75,500 properties were sold a month.
In the same period in 2012, the monthly sales average was just over 59,000.
Matthew Pointon, a property economist at Capital Economics, said that looking further ahead, prices should moderate as more people are encouraged by the improving market to sell their homes.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “These worrying figures show that house prices are continuing to spin out of control, taking with them thousands of young people and families’ dreams of a home of their own.
“However hard they work or save, many are left with no choice but to remain trapped in insecure rented homes or living in their childhood bedrooms, watching the prospect of a stable home slip further away.
“To give future generations a chance, the Government needs to roll up their sleeves and come up with bigger, bolder ideas to get more affordable homes built.”