NEWPORT has been identified as having the biggest rise in the value of homes of any local authority area in the UK.

Over the past five years house prices in the city have increased by an average of 49.9 per cent, which is 26.4 per cent above the UK’s average increase.

In neighbouring Torfaen, which includes Cwmbran and Pontypool, prices have increased by an average of 42.5 per cent over the same period and that figure is 18.9 per cent above the UK’s average increase.

Property website Homedit.com researched the Office for National Statistics (ONS) House Price Index (HPI) to find the average increase in property value for every local authority in the UK. It then compared the figures to the UK’s average increase in property value.

Its research showed prices in Newport had increased by a greater percentage than in any other local authority area in the UK. The second largest percentage increase in Wales was in Torfaen which ranked eleventh across the UK.

Jay Coleman, a senior manager with Cwmbran-based estate agents Angelwoods, said he wasn’t surprised by the figures.

“Not in the slightest,” said Mr Coleman who said the local housing market has been boosted by three significant developments and he also credited greater support for first-time buyers in boosting the property market.

The estate agent also said he believes Covid lockdowns had also helped the market as, when restrictions have eased, more potential buyers have entered.

The June 30 deadline for zero per cent land transaction tax (which replaced stamp duty in Wales in 2018) on properties under £250,000, is also stoking current demand.

The three other factors fuelling the market in the neighbouring Gwent local authority areas according to Mr Coleman are the scrapping of the Severn Bridge tolls at the end of 2018, and more recently the opening last year of the new Grange Hospital at Llantarnam, Cwmbran, and the opening of a new school at Croesyceiliog in the town.

“Those are three massive impacts on the area. The Grange Hospital is very close to Newport and I think the only thing that coronavirus has been good for is the housing market. We were busy after it opened up last year and have been again after the Christmas lockdown.”

Since the UK Government announced it would scrap the Severn Bridge tolls, there has been speculation it would lead to an increase in house prices in Newport. The opening of the critical care hospital the Grange, which is intended as a regional centre for large parts of South Wales, has also impacted the property market.

“Since the bridge tolls were abolished we’ve seen more Bristolians now than ever. There are probably two, three or five a week from Bristol,” said Mr Coleman.

“The Grange Hospital has also helped as all the new doctors and nurses need somewhere to live if they are coming from away and particularly staff who are coming from other parts of the world and they are set up and ready to buy a home.

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“I would say a lot of our executive sales have been to consultants from the Grange.”

Help for first-time buyers, who can qualify for a 95 per cent mortgage which is secured by the government, has also helped move the market as it has meant existing home owners have been able to sell to first-time buyers and look to move up the property ladder themselves, said the agent.

Low interest rates also mean first-time buyers,can, depending on their circumstances, afford mortgages of £280,000 or even up to £300,000, according to Mr Coleman,

“You can have a £260,000 mortgage for substantially less than you could three years ago,” said Mr Coleman.

As distinct from the English situation, the Welsh Government’s zero per cent rate applies on residential properties up to £250,000 until June 30.

Buyers must pay five per cent on the portion of the price between £250,000 and £400,000 and that increases at £750,000 and £1.5million.

From July 1, buyers will not have to pay LTT on properties costing up to £180,000, with 3.5 per cent on the portion of the price up to £250,000; five per cent on the portion to £400,000 and larger rates above that.

If you’re buying a second home, you’ll pay the higher residential rates of LTT on properties costing more than £40,000.

Mr Coleman said people are keen to beat the June 30 deadline: “It’s human nature when you’ve got to give money over, for what might be seen as unnecessary, it sticks in the throat. A lot of people are trying to get sales through before July 1 but they do have to be completed not just an offer made.”

The strength of the Newport market is also pushing up prices in neighbouring counties as potential buyers widen their search areas which has also been seen by Angelwoods staff.

“The increase in Newport due to Bristol is having a knock-on effect,” said Mr Coleman: “Torfaen has historically had low prices but prices have really increased, in Blaenavon for example, over the last 18 months and I can’t see any evidence it will go down any time soon.”

Homeowner Anna Merry bought her first home in Rogerstone, on the western side of Newport, four years ago for £150,000 with a £10,000 deposit.

She had the three-bedroom, 1800s terraced cottage re-valued, for mortgage purposes, this week and was told it is now worth £192,000.

“It has increased by 28 per cent without any improvements, just based on the current market in the area,” said Ms Merry who added as the property is on a main road its price was more attractive than it may otherwise have been.

The restaurant operations manager said she chose Newport due to her work and access to the M4 and she also thinks its proximity to Bristol is leading to the house price boom.

“I work from Cardiff to Reading so travel times are important and I could spend a similar amount in Pontypridd/Taffs Well, where I was before, but here I save at least an hour a day off commuting.

“The bridge tolls going had a massive effect, I think, as both my neighbours work in Bristol where house prices are way, way higher.”

However the homeowner, who has no intention of moving, doesn’t think there is a major benefit from the increased property values: “If I wanted to move it’s going to make it so much more difficult to find anything upwards and affordable. I’d have to downsize.”