North-South divide on repossessions widens

1 November 2013

The North-South divide in home repossessions is at its widest for six years, with the North West being hit hardest in the year to July 2013, according to a new study.

The towns of Chester, Blackpool, Oldham and Wigan all feature in the top five 'repossession hotspots', where homeowners are more likely to lose their homes, according to the research by chartered surveyors e.surv.

While the North dominates repossessions, the report finds that parts of London are also affected - with Croydon and Romford featuring in the top 10 hotspots.

e.surv analysed Ministry of Justice data on court-ordered repossessions and found there were 3.2 possessions per 1,000 households in the North - 33% more than in the South, which saw 2.4 repossessions per 1,000 households.

Chester was by far the worst hit town in the UK, with 8.4 repossessions per 1,000 households - three times the UK average of 2.8. In second place was Blackpool (4.5), while Oldham and Wigan came in fourth and fifth place, with 4.3 and 4.2 respectively.

Lancaster (2.5), Liverpool (2.4) and Carlisle (2.0) were the only towns in the North West to have lower than the average number of repossessions.

Richard Sexton, director of e.surv, said: "House prices may be high in the capital, and the labour market may be stronger, but in such densely populated areas, there remain borrowers who are struggling. Many borrowers have seen their finances slowly eroded by high inflation and rising living costs. This has been particularly potent in the expensive capital, where less affluent borrowers - those who could only just afford to buy - have been badly affected."

Meanwhile, the Insolvency Service has revealed that there were 26,030 individual insolvencies in England and Wales in the third quarter of 2013 - a decrease of 7.3% on the same period a year ago.

This was made up of 6,004 bankruptcies (down 21.4% on the same quarter of 2012), 6,632 Debt Relief Orders (down 14.7%) and 13,394 Individual Voluntary Arrangements (up 5.7%).

Melanie Giles, a licensed insolvency practitioner at PJG Recovery, said: "It's easy to see these latest individual insolvency numbers as good news. While conditions have stabilised slightly, the reality on the ground is a lot less positive than the data depicts.

"This is evidenced by the growing numbers of house and landlord repossessions, fuel poverty and cuts in benefits to lower income families. The Insolvency Service's numbers do not reflect the growing number of unregulated, and less formal, debt management plans out there."

"Wages are stagnating while inflation remains stubbornly high. Households are still very geared and in many cases this will eventually find them out, as nervousness remains in the consumer sector with regard to both spending and investment. When interest rates do finally rise, expect to see another surge in people going bankrupt or entering a formal debt repayment plan."

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