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UK Housing: Increase Of 12,000 In Empty Homes

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The number of empty homes in England has increased by nearly 12,000 over a year to stand at 662,105 in April, Halifax has said.

The lender said the figure, representing a 1.8% increase, had a "significant impact" on the housing market and in particular opportunities for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

House prices are being pushed down in areas where there is a high proportion of empty homes, with houses in the ten most affected districts being 15% (£23,493) below the regional average, it added.

Stephen Noakes, mortgage director at Halifax, said: "At a time when first-time buyers are still facing numerous obstacles to getting on the ladder, it is imperative we look further at the issue as an industry."

Although the number of long-term empty private homes in England has fallen to its lowest level since 2008 - to 292,313 in April - this figure still accounts for 1.6% of all private homes in England.

The North West has by far the highest number of long-term empty homes (63,696), accounting for over a fifth (22%) of the total across England. It also has the highest number of long-term empty homes as a proportion of all privately owned properties at 2.5%.

This is in contrast with southern regions which have a below average number of long-term empty private homes, with a low of 1% in the South East.

Houses in places such as Pendle in the North West are trading at 29% (£38,831) below the average house price in the region, due to the 4.8% total of long-term empty homes there.

Dover, with 4.4% of empty homes, is not far behind on the next highest discount with prices 26% below the South East average. Wellingborough is the only one of the ten districts with the highest proportion of empty homes where the average house price is above the regional average (7%).

Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis said that while it is encouraging that the number of long-term empty homes has decreased, it is still at a "high level" in the context of the country's housing shortage. He adds that in some areas, the number of empty homes is "more than double the national average".

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