Comment: No use comparing house prices within Herts

Hertfoordshire is a big place full of very different property microclimates

Hertfoordshire is a big place full of very different property microclimates - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The news that Herts house prices only increased by 1.9 per cent in the year to May came as a surprise to many – not least the wannabe buyers and/or Rightmove addicts who’ve been keeping a close eye on the local market these past 12 months.

Two agents I spoke to agreed that, while price rises have undeniably calmed down a bit of late, the sub-2 per cent recorded by the Rightmove House Price Index seemed surprisingly slight.

In St Albans, Nick Doyle blamed an over-supply of two-bed flats and a tightening of the London market for the slow down, while Stevenage agent Barry Butler said the figure of 1.9 per cent was “ridiculous”, adding that a 10 per cent rise seemed more realistic. But is there really any point in comparing two such vastly different areas, even if they do come within the same county? Hertfordshire is a big place comprising of many property microclimates, and comparing one bubble of unique activity with another a few miles down the road might not be terribly insightful without first establishing some hard facts.

The data had the average Hertfordshire home costing £508,105, up from £498,481 in May 2016. Nick pointed out that this amount would typically buy you a two-bed cottage in St Albans – while, not surprisingly, Welwyn or Stevenage would offer far better VFM.

Barry said: “If you’re looking in Welwyn for a three-bed mid-terrace these days you’re talking the best part of £400,000, whereas in Stevenage £400,000 gets you a very large four-bed property.”

Barry also made the point that buyers priced out of everywhere from London to Welwyn Garden City often find themselves buying in Stevenage on account of its relative affordability. This may be news to some of those outside the county, who generalise about all areas of the Herts commuter belt being much of an over-priced muchness where property prices are concerned.

Sadly, Rightmove said county-wide was as specific as they’re able to get with this latest batch of data, meaning it’s anyone’s guess which areas have really brought about this reduced growth.

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But for the average buyer it probably doesn’t make much difference: prices, even in relatively affordable Stevenage, remain out of reach to many, and another batch of generalised stats won’t take the edge off any of that.