SCOTTISH towns have experienced some of the largest falls in average house prices in the past year, new figures show, prompting fears of a widening north-south divide.

A survey by Halifax named Wishaw, Hamilton, Ayr and Inverness among those with the biggest house price decreases in the UK.

Average prices in Wishaw, in North Lanarkshire, fell by 12.5% to £87,410 in 2012, while Hamilton in South Lanarkshire experienced a drop of 8.9% to £96,478. Ayr dropped 8.2% to £116,352 and Inverness declined 7.9% to £157,679.

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By contrast, towns around London had some of the largest house price rises, with Southend, in Essex, recording the biggest increase at nearly 15%.

The survey was published in the week experts warned of tough times ahead for the Scottish property market.

Estate agents said there were no signs the economy has picked up enough to fuel a widespread rise in prices and called on lending companies to inject more cash into the market.

In a year of fluctuating conditions, house prices fell overall in 2012, with the average price dropping by more than £5000 to £142,246 from £147,494 in November 2011.

Yesterday, Martin Ellis, Halifax housing economist, said the high proportion of towns outside the south of England experiencing property declines reflected the continuing regional divide in the property market.

He 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, but this picture conceals considerable local differences.

"Several towns within easy commuting distance of London 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."

Mr Ellis said he expected continuing broad stability in house prices nationally in 2013.

He said: "The north-south divide in house price performance seen during 2012 is likely to continue next year.

"House prices are expected to be strongest in London and the south-east as this part of the UK performs best in economic terms."

However, Jonathan Riley, managing partner of the Glasgow-based independent firm of property specialists Rettie Bearsden, said different factors contributed to the figures.

He said: "It comes down to the basic economic principle of supply and demand, and if there is too much supply it outstrips demand and you get a fall in house prices,.

"For example, there has been a lot of new house building around Wishaw and Hamilton and that additional supply will have an impact on house prices more generally."

Mr Riley said a contributing factor was the difficulty potential buyers were still experiencing securing loans, although he believes this will improve.

He said: "Demand may continue to fall next year, but interestingly house prices in America have started to rise and banks there are starting to lend. Our boom and bust market has followed them exactly and we would expect the credit issue to be improving by 2015, which will help the market as a whole."