Property in Southend experienced the biggest annual price increase of any town or city in the UK in 2012.
House prices rose by 15 per cent, compared with the average rise of one per cent across the UK, according to a new report published by the Halifax. This means the average house sale in the Essex town has risen from £172,782 to £198,418.
The lender reported that the biggest increases in property prices were seen in commuter towns across South East England. It said the biggest price falls came in Craigavon in Northern Ireland where prices fell by 18.4 per cent from £112,172 to £91,530 and Wishaw in Scotland which saw a 12.5 per cent drop down to £87,410, the lowest average for any area surveyed by the Halifax. The town that saw the biggest drop in property prices in England was Chorley.
The new report highlights the North-South divide in property values that has emerged as the economy has continued to struggle since 2008. The only town in the top ten property risers not in the South East was Durham. The area in the South East that saw the biggest drop was Grays in Essex where average prices dropped by 7.3 per cent.
Southend was just ahead of Basingstoke which recorded a 14.7 per cent increase over the past 12 months, followed by Rochester in Kent that saw prices rise by 13.3 per cent.
Martin Ellis, housing economist at the Halifax said: "Nationally, conditions in the housing market have been largely unchanged over the past 12 months with little overall movement in either house prices or sales for the second consecutive year.
"This picture, however, conceals considerable local differences. A number of towns and cities have recorded significant changes in house prices over the past 12 months.
"Several towns within easy commuting distance of the capital feature in the list of top performers, whilst the majority of towns that have fared worst in house price terms are outside southern England, where economic conditions have generally been less favourable," he added.
Meanwhile, the British Bankers' Association (BBA) reported that the number of new mortgages for house buyers approved but not yet lent, had risen again in November to 33,634.
Most analysts expect mortgage approvals and activity in the property market to rise in 2013, but still remain at less than half the level they were at before the credit crunch of 2007.
The Bank of England’s Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) is expected to provide more competitive mortgage loans to encourage potential buyers to move home next year.
Halifax said that it expected the discrepancies between prices in the South East and the rest of the country to continue in 2013.
London is expected to continue to outperform the rest of the country but at a reduced rate as the new stamp duty rate for homes valued above £2 million is introduced.