I read with interest the front page of last Monday’s [13thFebruary 2012] Staffordshire Sentinel newspaper. It reported that, according to new findings, Stoke-on-Trent was one of the cheapest places to buy properties in the UK. Only Hull in Humberside, Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales and a place I have never heard of in Wales were cheaper places to buy houses. The Sentinel interviewed local first time buyers as well as the area’s leading local auctioneers, who have had a successful recent auction. By the sound of things, out-of-town investors are back on the scene, taking advantage of the cheap properties available in Stoke-on-Trent. Like everywhere else, property prices have fallen in the city of Stoke-on-Trent from the highs seen at the height of the market in 2007.
From what I read, the newspaper and the estate agent interviewed were making out that Stoke-on-Trent is a great place for first time buyers to buy property, which in principle it is. But, let’s look at the facts. People in Stoke-on-Trent are on low wages. We have been heavily hit by the recession with widespread redundancies and above average unemployment. This is why properties in Stoke-on-Trent are some of the cheapest in the country. The Sentinel interviewed first time buyers living outside the city in Newcastle-under-Lyme and the Staffordshire Moorlands. One of whom, a lady from the Staffordshire Moorlands, recently bought a property in Stoke-on-Trent as it is marginally cheaper to buy a house in Stoke, than in the Moorlands. Whilst it is good that people are moving into Stoke-on-Trent to buy properties, this from my experience is not that common. The majority of first time buyers in Stoke-on-Trent come from the area. If Stoke-on-Trent had inward investment with jobs created, then we may see more people moving into the area and buying properties in the city.
I personally do not see it as a benefit that Stoke-on-Trent is one of the cheaper housing areas. For me, this further illustrates the fact that we need investment and new jobs for the area. When this happens, house prices will increase. The article in the Sentinel was a positive one, which in some ways is good. What it did not seem to mention, are the problems local first time buyers are encountering trying to save up for a deposit, in most cases, 10% of the property value. This is not easy especially if you are on a low wage.
I hope that the returning buy-to-let investors snapping up Stoke-on-Trent properties at the auctions, put some money back into the local economy by employing local tradesmen to improve their properties.
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