Dec 31 2010 by Aled Blake, Western Mail
HOUSE prices in parts of Wales showed stronger increases than any other part of the UK in the last year, according to a study published today.
The typical cost of a home in Conwy jumped by 13% to £162,691, mortgage lender Halifax said.
It was followed by East Dunbartonshire and Dumfries and Galloway, both in Scotland, which saw rises of 12% and 11%, respectively.
At the other end of the scale, Blaenau Gwent has the lowest UK house prices, at an average of £86,385.
The Halifax study comes a day after the Land Registry's House Price Index for November showed an annual price increase of 2.2%, which took the average property value in England and Wales to £164,773. But prices from October to November fell by 0.6%.
In Wales, the average house price stood at £120,290 a monthly decrease of 3.4% and an annual fall of 3.3%.
But North Wales estate agent Robbie Howarth disputed the Halifax research, saying sales at her agency had not been as strong in 2010, with the rental sector seeing most growth.
She said: "North Wales is a lovely place to live, but this last year has been a disaster.
"Probably year on year it's been my best year, but that's all down to rentals.
"People have to bring prices down to sell."
Llandudno Junction-based Ms Howarth said difficulties in putting together a deposit for a mortgage meant the market has been relatively stagnant, like most other parts of Wales in 2010.
She said: "People are still being very cautious, I don't think it's going to get any better soon.
"The market is being affected by mortgage availability and confidence in people losing their jobs.
"I've got properties in Conwy marina where people have bought for investment and they are now renting them out because their businesses are suffering and they need the income.
"The rental market is very strong this year and last year have been my best in that sector. I came back to work yesterday from the Christmas break and we're already getting inquiries and it's all rental."
She predicted much the same for 2011, with the UK's housing market mirroring the continent with more people renting because of the difficulty in accessing mortgages.
Suren Thiru, housing economist at Halifax, said: "Many of the counties recording the best house price performance in 2010 are in the south of England, reflecting the general out-performance of the housing market in this part of the country.
"Looking forward, we predict that UK house prices at the end of 2011 will be at a broadly similar level to that at the end of 2010. We do, however, expect some modest variations in house price performance across the country. Prices are expected to be strongest in southern England as this part of the country is likely to fare better economically.
"House prices outside southern England are likely to be constrained by a greater dependence on public sector employment at a time when this sector will be under pressure due to the Government's public spending reductions."
In a recent report for leading property firm BNP Paribas Real Estate, Professor Patrick Minford suggested prices in Wales will rise by almost 5% in 2011, largely thanks to the Bank of England's monetary policy offsetting the Government's austerity measures.