Never Mind East Sussex or Devon - If You Want to Make Money on Property Move to West Wales; but MP Attacks Price Rises That Are Freezing out Local Buyers
Byline: Steffan Rhys
IT MAY not be the first place you would associate with a property gold mine but house prices in a rural Welsh county have grown at a rate that outstrips even England's wealthiest housing hotspots, new figures show today.
Carmarthenshire has seen price rises of 287% in the past 10 years, one of the largest in the UK and way ahead of rises in traditionally wealthy areas such as East Sussex and Devon.
By contrast, despite its plush and desirable suburbs, Cardiff has seen some of the slowest house price rises in the UK.
The average home in Carmarthenshire now costs pounds 172,223, almost on a par with the capital city's average price of pounds 174,877.
Other rural areas, such as Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Gwynedd, were also among the UK's highest performers.
But one MP is blasting the situation as "appalling", saying it leaves families unable to buy homes in their own towns and villages.
According to the Halifax County House Price Index, three of the 10 UK counties that have delivered the highest house price growth over the past 10 years are in Wales.
No Welsh counties feature among the 10 most expensive and prices in Blaenau Gwent are the lowest in the UK - with an average 2007 house price of pounds 113,964 - and Wales still has four of the UK's 10 least expensive counties.
Carol Peett, local director in West Wales for the County Homesearch Company, said the figures should come as no surprise and are, in fact, far below increases in the most popular towns in the area, where prices have risen by up to 500%.
Mrs Peett said Llandeilo, Brechfa, Laugharne and Llansteffan are among Carmarthenshire's leading hotspots. "It's inevitable that prices are going up," she said. "West Wales is the new Cornwall, which is full while we are being discovered.
"There is stunning scenery, with a feeling of community-spirit and one of the lowest crime rates in Britain.
"Of course, this has a detrimental effect on locals, although a plus side is that you hear of farmers renovating outbuildings for accommodation and making a living out of them.
"I think, however, that it's very important that council planning departments dealing with new developments now concentrate on affordable housing."
But with 6,000 people currently on housing waiting lists in Carmarthenshire, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Adam Price said the figures reflect a desperate situation and called for a proportion of homes to be designated for local buyers in perpetuity.
He said, "If we'd had a trebling of the average wage in the past 10 years it wouldn't be such a problem, but that is the nature of the crisis we face in West Wales.
"The ratio of house prices to wages has gone way off the scale, and it is impossible for young local people to get on the first rung of the ladder without very substantial help from families - who, in the vast majority of cases, do not have the spare capital available.
"It's an appalling situation, and what's worrying is that the cooling off in the market in other parts of the UK doesn't appear to be affecting West Wales, where demand far outstrips supply."
Some have raised fears that the situation is about to worsen with the introduction of a flat 18%rate in capital gains tax in April, which would make investment in property in rural Wales even more attractive.
"It is inevitable that people are going to come into the region. We saw it in the boom of the 1990s and in the latest boom," said Mr Price.
"People are cashing up in southern England and finding they are able to buy a much better house here than they ever dreamed of.
"The knock-on effect is there to be seen, with the thousands of young people in West Wales who have no hope."
Thomas George, of Cardiff estate agency Thomas George, said the city's comparatively slow rises are due to its strong starting position in 1997. …