The hottest town for property in past 20 years

Which areas have beaten London over the past two decades - and why?

36\% downbeat about home ownership

Three towns have beaten London in the race to be the hottest for property over the past 20 years. The top spot was taken Brighton and Hove - which has seen prices rise 500% over that time.

The figures come from the Office for National Statistics, which looked at house prices in 112 towns and cities in England and Wales. It found that in Brighton, the average property price rose from a relatively affordable £50,000 in 1995 to an eye-watering £295,000.

This is due in part to the unique attractions of an area known as London-on-sea. The improved commute, better quality of life, and relative affordability of Brighton have drawn people out of London - who enjoy a city within easy reach of the capital with plenty of cultural and social attractions of its own.

The second fastest growth was in Cambridge - where prices rose 414% in the same period. Cambridge also benefits from the dual attractions of being within commuting distance of London, as well as having an awful lot to offer in its own right.

St Albans, meanwhile, has always been known for its attractions as a leafy, middle class commuter area. It is also home to the highest average price at the moment - at £390,000 - compared to £380,000 in London. London clearly has runaway house prices in some areas, but also has more lower quality housing to bring the average down. At Albans doesn't have the same kinds of highs - but neither does it have the same lows.

Divide

The study revealed a North/South divide in house prices, where prices in the south rose roughly 250%-350% over the 20 years - while those in the North rose 150%-250%.

At the cheaper end of the spectrum, the slowest growth was seen in Burnley, where prices rose 148%. This was followed by Blackpool at 156%, Bradford at 163% and St Helens at 165%.

Top ten

1 Brighton and Hove
2 Cambridge
3 St Albans
4 London
5 Southend-on-Sea
6 Watford
7 Worthing
8 Guildford
9 Chelmsford
10 Bath

Five years

Over a shorter time period - of five years - Brighton and Hove drops off the top spot. Over that period, Cambridge prices have grown the fastest at 47% - followed by London at 38%.

Other areas have fared less well, and a number have actually seen prices drop over the past five years. Swansea and Southport have fallen the furthest - at an average of £5,000. They are followed by Blackpool at £2,500 and Bradford at £1,000.

The future

This tells us a great deal about the attractiveness of these towns and cities in the past, but predicting whether prices will continue to rise is always tricky. Of the areas on this list, only a few have come up as ones to watch for 2016 in previous studies.

The exceptions - which are expected to continue to out-perform the wider market - include Brighton at number four (tipped by Rightmove because it was considered the most appealing place for young professionals outside London).

Bath was also named as one-to-watch (at six) because of the electrification of the train line. London (Zone 3) made it to ninth place (tipped by Savills), and Cambridge made it into 10th place - lifted even further by rail links to the science park.

But what do you think? Do you live in a hotspot? And can you see prices rising any further? Let us know in the comments.

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