West Midlands house prices have been standing up better than those in most of Britain in the sinking housing market better.
They fell by 3.4 per cent to an average of £150,046 in the three months to September, according to Nationwide.
That was 9.1per cent cheaper than in the third quarter of last year, compared with a fall of 10.3 per cent for the UK as a whole, where the loss between the second and third quarters was 4.6 per cent.
Only Scotland and the North of England registered smaller year-on-year declines. In the latest quarter, losses were less only in Wales, Yorkshire & Humberside and the Northwest.
The findings came as Nationwide reported that house prices nationally fell by 1.7 per cent in the single month of September, much as they did in both July and August. That took the year-on-year loss to 12.4 per cent, lowering the average price to £161,797 – leaving the average home-buyer £24,247 poorer over the past 12 months.
The quarterly numbers, which Nationwide calculates separately, show big divergences within the West Midlands. In Birmingham, the average is down seven per cent from July/September last year to £167,291. But in Herefordshire an average of £187,444 is only one per cent lower on the year.
Curiously, this Herefordshire price is now only £1,236 short of that in neighbouring Worcestershire, still the highest in the region, despite a six per cent fall.
Shropshire has seen the biggest drop in the region, a decline of nine per cent taking its average to £168,243.
“House prices have now fallen for eleven consecutive months, but the monthly rate of fall has been almost unchanged for the last three months,” commented Nationwide’s chief economist, Fionnuala Earley.
“The less volatile three-month-on three-month series has also been barely changed for the last three months, after accelerating in the first half of the year.
“This may suggest the beginning of some stabilisation in the pace of house price falls.” She pointed out that house prices are still 60 per cent higher than they were at the start of this decade.
In the West Midlands, gains over the last ten years range from 122 per cent in Warwickshire to 154 per cent in Birmingham. “Although house price falls are not painless, they do contribute to restoring housing affordability to more sustainable levels, which is positive for the market over the long term,” Ms Early added.
She found little, though, to suggest that the market will turn round quickly.
Howard Archer, UK economist at the consultants Global Insight was equally cautious.
“Even if the Bank of England cuts interest rates as early as next week, as we now expect, this is likely to provide only very limited support to the housing market.”