Surrey - a good place to live
With its proximity to London and beautiful
countryside Surrey has for long been a desirable place
Today Surrey also boasts:
||Excellent international links -easy reach
of Heathrow, Gatwick and Eurostar.
|| Good road connections - the M25,
which sweeps across the north of Surrey, links with the national
||Good schooling (state, private and
||An outstanding range of beautiful
||Thousands of acres of woods and heathland,
many of which are freely accessible for public enjoyment. Surrey
is the most densely wooded county in England.
||The lowest crime rate of any county
||Great sporting opportunities – horseracing,
horse-riding, tennis, village cricket and more golf courses
than any other English county.
||A wealth of dining experiences.
It’s not surprising therefore that homes in
Surrey are much in demand. Indeed, apart from London, Surrey
has on average the most expensive property in the UK. Of course,
this is bad news for home buyers but on the positive side
this also means that Surrey property has proved to be an excellent
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What kind of people live in Surrey?
Usually when journalists refer to Surrey they sloppily use the outdated cliche "Surrey's stockbroker belt" which refers back to the early part of the last century when affluent City professionals commuted by train from large mock
Tudor houses in Surrey and enjoyed a privileged lifestyle - playing
golf, (the wife played tennis) superintending the gardener
and driving the Jaguar or Bentley to the local pub for
a gin and tonic. Maybe this stereotype did once exist
in vast numbers, but no longer, and today you are as likely
to find a very different type of wealthy person living
down a Surrey lane. There are pop stars ( Eric Clapton
at Ewhurst, Ringo Starr at Cranleigh, Mick Hucknall
at Walton-on-Thames, Brian May at West End) media celebrities (Michael
Caine at Leatherhead, Judi Dench at Outwood and glamour model, Jordan, at Woldingham) and sport
superstars ( Jimmy White in Cobham, Colin Montgomerie and Jamie Redknap
in Oxshott, Sir Geoff Hurst in Weybridge). Lots of Chelsea Football Club players, including John Terry, the England football captain, have moved into the environs of Cobham, following the establishment of their training ground in the town. Surrey even has a smattering of royals -
Prince Edward (the Queen’s youngest son) and his
wife live at Bagshot Park near Woking.
The same qualities that attract celebrities
(large houses in private settings and excellent transport
communications with London and the rest of the world)
also attract successful business people from around
the globe. The
ACS International Schools at Cobham and Egham (with
students from nearly 50 nationalities) and TASIS The
American School in England at Thorpe act as magnets
for foreigners needing to buy or rent near London, but
wanting to live somewhere quieter and greener. Today
there are large numbers of American, Scandinavian, German,
Dutch, Far Eastern, Italian (particularly at Woking)
and now even Russian residents in key areas of Surrey.
As a result there can be something of a cosmopolitan
atmosphere, and in shops in places like Cobham or Esher
you are as likely to hear a foreign accent or a foreign
language as an English voice.
Towns near the M25, such as Guildford, Chertsey and Leatherhead, have grown as major business centres in their own right, and major companies have moved into new European headquarters in Surrey. The county has a surprisingly high global profile in the international computer and technology industries. Thus while once Surrey was a domitory county, whose residents had to commute to London to earn high salaries, this is no longer the case, and many highly-paid Surrey residents now work within the county.
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- North versus South
has a variety of different identities and there is a
marked difference between the north and the south of
the county. Much of north-eastern Surrey has been swallowed
up by London, so that the towns of Richmond, Kingston,
Sutton, Merton, and Croydon are now London Boroughs,
though they are still geographically in Surrey. These
areas are either urban or suburban with high density
housing, but some do have pockets of green open spaces
(in the case of Richmond Park an extremely large pocket).
The further south you go in the county, the more rural
and greener it becomes. In general, south of the greater
London boundary, it is a leafier, more spacious environment;
and south of the M25, the landscape becomes even more
expansive, with a rolling countryside that is dotted
by small and often very pretty villages.
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towns and villages
Surrey’s major towns in general still manage
to retain distinctive personalities; the southern towns of
Guildford, Farnham, Dorking, Haslemere and Reigate have county
town atmospheres. Richmond, Guildford and Woking are particularly
strong on cultural pursuits and are well supplied with the
usual range of shops and retail chains. Kingston and Croydon
provide a huge choice of retailers, including large department
stores, while Richmond aims to be a trendier, more exclusive
shopping experience. Guildford, Dorking, Farnham and Reigate
retain a slightly more old-fashioned approach and more independent
shops, although Guildford (now a thriving employment centre
in its own right) has a sophisticated edge.
Surrey is renowned for having some of the prettiest, and
most photographed, villages in England, typically set
around a large green, with an assortment of mellow,
period houses often accompanied by an ancient church.
Brockham, Chiddingfold, Dunsfold, Shere and Shamley
Green are among the most picturesque villages. In some
villages an old-fashioned community spirit persists.
Creeping suburbanisation has ravaged many other former
villages but vestiges of former charms can still be
seen in places such as Ewell, Carshalton, Merstham ,
Godstone and Shepperton.
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Today we are so much dependent on the car that
our daily living patterns are often determined by the road systems near our homes. Surrey enjoys some good
fast roads, but as it is an affluent county, traffic flows
on Surrey roads are almost twice the national average. All
over the county, former quiet residential roads that can provide
alternative access to towns and villages, or to key routes,
are now heavy with traffic. Indeed, the junctions in such
residential roads are often clogged with lengthy traffic queues
during the rush hour.
The efficiency of the road network varies enormously
across the county with many A roads passing through towns
and villages, rather than skirting them. In general, the west
and centre of the county has a better road network than the
east of Surrey
The M25 sweeps through the north of the
county for fast access to the national motorway network (in
particular the M4,M3,M40, M1, M20,M26, M23 and M11, Heathrow
and Gatwick ). Of course the M25 can become horribly
conjested and is notorious for traffic jams caused by accidents
and road works. The section between junction 9 and Heathrow
(dual four to six lanes) is one of the busiest roads in Europe.
The M23 connects the M25 directly and
quickly with Gatwick airport. The M3 cuts through
the north west of the county with just three junctions in
Surrey. It provides efficient access to Hampshire and the
south-west of England (very popular at weekends) but its northern
termination at Sunbury is often traffic-locked.
The A3 which runs out of London
and south-west through the county towards Hampshire
feels like a motorway with its three lanes sweeping
past towns. When it has free-flowing traffic, it is
an extremely good, fast route to and from London, but
it is very busy in peak hours and there can be hold-ups.
The newly opened tunnel at Hindhead (to be factually
accurate, two tunnels) should put an end to the lengthy
traffic jams that used to occur at this spot and allow
the A3 to flow easily into Hampshire.
The A31 connects
Farnham and Guildford via an effective dual carriageway.
The A30 running along the north east borderland
of Surrey is generally a quick road. The Blackwater
Valley Route (A331) in the far east of the
county links Camberley and Frimley with Farnham and
is often mistaken for a motorway.
Nearer the centre of the county the A24
south of Leatherhead is another good fast road which travels
towards Sussex and the south coast. Emerging from greater
London, the A217 south of Sutton is a dual or three
lane carriageway as far as the M25.
With the exception of the above roads, many
of the so-called A roads are single carriageways and are not
particularly quick. In general, because of the density of
the population and the high ratio of cars to people, most
of the north of the county is prone to traffic congestion.
In the south of the county the roads are emptier, but away
from the major routes mentioned above they are slower and
meandering; it can often take an unexpectedly long time to
cover a relatively short distance, especially in the Surrey
Hills. Many villages in the south do not have quick access
to fast roads.
CLICK ON MAP FOR ENLARGED IMAGE
The coming of the railway in the nineteenth century was not
met with universal delight and consequently the locations
of some railroutes and stations are idiosyncratic rather than
logical. For example, since Surbiton, instead of the much
bigger town of Kingston, gained the main line station, the
result is that today Surbiton, rather than Kingston, has the
faster and more frequent train journey to London. If travel
to London via train is an important criterion for house hunters,
it is essential to check services and journey times, since
sometimes locations further out can have faster train access
to London than stations that are actually nearer the capital
(e.g. trains from Chessington, part of greater London, take
35 minutes to Waterloo whereas a fast train from Woking, much
further out to the south-west, can take only 29 minutes to
Waterloo). Wimbledon, Surbiton, Guildford, Woking, Richmond
and Staines are stations blessed with extremely frequent train
services to London.
London terminus stations that can be accessed from
Surrey - Waterloo, Victoria, London Bridge
& Charing Cross. Many lines also stop at Vauxhall. Thameslink
trains pass through the north-east fringes of Surrey (now
part of greater London). Thus Redhill and East Croydon stations
connect via Thameslink with London Bridge, Farringdon and
Kings Cross. Sutton, Carshalton, Mitcham, St.Helier, Morden,
South Merton and Wimbledon connect with Blackfriars, Farringdon
and Kings Cross. Note that theAnglia Railways service on the map has been discontinued. Stations in the west of
Surrey are linked to West London e.g. Hounslow.
In addition to the above railway map, Virgin Trains operates
a limited service that connects Guildford with the Midlands
and the North, as well as Portsmouth and Gatwick.
For detailed information on timetables see the websites
for South West Trains,
Railways and Virgin
Trains, or UK
The London Underground -The towns of Richmond and
Wimbledon are on the London Underground District Line, while
Morden and South Wimbledon are on the Northern Line.
Surrey is extremely well placed for access to international
and national flights. London’s Heathrow airport
sits just to the north-west of Surrey, while London’s
second airport, Gatwick, is just to the south-east of
the county. There are fast motorway communications to
What's that Noise?
It is often said that it is almost impossible
to escape the distant (or not so distant) hum of traffic in
Surrey. There is also aircraft noise to contend with, especially
for people living under the flightpaths of Gatwick and Heathrow
- both these major airports are adjacent to Surrey's boundary.
The blackspots for aircraft noise are in the north-west and
south-east of the county – places such as Staines and Richmond
upon Thames in the north-west and Charlwood in the south-east.
Under the latest thirty-year plan for UK air travel, further expansion is decreed for Heathrow but the Government has decided that there will be no new runway at Gatwick until after 2019 and then only if environmental factors prevent the proposed new runway at Heathrow. In March 2004 the British Airports Authority published a draft plan for Gatwick's future growth. This includes a large increase in passengers and the possibility of a second runway, the latter not until after 2019.
There are also small aerodromes at Redhill and Chobham.
For home buyers parcticularly concerned about aircraft noise, Surreyhomesearch has access to detailed flightpath maps for both Heathrow and Gatwick which are available to clients. www.surreyhomesearch.com
The proposal to build a train
freightline beside the M25 looks as if it has been squashed after the scheme failed to get Government support. The freightline would have impacted on areas alongside the the M25 and
included a nine-mile tunnel to the north of Leatherhead
emerging at Merstham. Local groups had protested against the proposal which was showing up in property searches undertaken during conveyancing for homes within 200 metres (670ft approx) of the route.
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If there was ever
such a thing as a traditional Surrey house style it was perhaps
best captured in Helen Allingham’s late 19th century paintings
of rural cottages (above, click
on image for enlargement). Though very romanticised, her houses
were real ones; the paintings were the artist’s way of recording
beautiful old buildings for posterity. Some of these picturesque
timber-frame houses with their steeply-pitched, clay-tiled roofs
can still be found in more rural, southern parts of Surrey though
many are now unfortunately on busy main roads.
One of England’s most celebrated architects, Edwin
Lutyens (1869 -1944) developed the Surrey vernacular style at
the end of the nineteenth century and he built a number of stunning
houses in Surrey, mostly south of Guildford, which are highly
sought after and very expensive. Many of them had gardens designed
by Gertrude Jekyll , England's most famous plantswoman, who
lived at Munstead Wood near Godalming, in one of Lutyens' earliest
The Lutyens' Surrey style – sweeping roofs
and soaring chimneys, tile hanging, multiple gables, leaded
lights, exposed timbering and handcrafted details – became
hugely influential and was copied around the world. Other
architects working in the first half of the twentieth
century (for example Baillie Scott and Blair Imrie ) also
designed in the Surrey vernacular and these kinds of houses
are fairly common in Surrey, especially in and around
Guildford, Esher, Weybridge and West Byfleet.
This Surrey style became so popular, developers
adopted it in the 1930s using some of its most basic elements
for building houses en masse. The word "tudorbethan"
was coined by detractors as a term of abuse to describe modern
pastiches of the Surrey style. Surrey has an abundance of tudorbethan
suburban houses, both detached and semi-detached, and while
architectural purists may knock them, many home buyers still
is not blessed with many genuine Georgian period houses (1714-1837)
whether detached or terraced. However, most towns and
villages have at least one good example of a detached
Georgian house in a pleasing, if central, location. Epsom, Farnham,
Richmond, Petersham, Guildford, Dorking, Chertsey and
Reigate have a rather better selection of good Georgian
properties than elsewhere. Because of their rarity, Georgian
houses command a high premium but they are also often on main roads. Buyers must
be prepared to be less fussy about location. Georgian
houses tend to remain with the same owners for a long
period and are often sold privately.
There is a slightly better supply of Victorian
housing (1837 -1901) especially small terraced properties and
late Victorian villas, the latter in a range of sizes including
large rambling properties standing in several acres and neat
little detached houses. Norman Shaw (1831 - 1912) was a leading
Victorian architect who designed many houses in Surrey, particularly
in and around Guildford, and his brick and tile-hanging style
was much copied around the county, noticeably at Haslemere and
From the 1930s onwards
(with a gap during the war years) new houses shot up
in Surrey, mostly on smallish estates. The majority
of Surrey's housing stock is from these more recent
times and there is a huge supply of late twentieth century homes. Although there is hardly any virgin building land in
the county, developers are still managing to find plots. Most new housing tends to be executive style
homes (either individual or small estates), apartments
or terraced housing. Indeed with recent Government guide-lines demanding higher density, developers are now concentrating on apartments and multi-storey "town" houses. Styles are mainly traditional,
even pastiches, and there is very little adventurous
or innovative housing being erected in Surrey.
Land prices in Surrey are very high and
there is a growing tendency for developers to pull down
tired, outdated housing in prime locations and erect
swish new homes that enjoy mature settings. Sometimes
a number of new houses will be squeezed into the large
plot of a demolished house, but increasingly individual
houses are being torn down to be replaced by just one
new property. The latest trend is for enormous monster houses, many of them still in the grandiose mock-Georgian style derisively known as "footballers' houses". Large redundant buildings (eg hospitals)
are also being divided up and converted into modern
Developers who specialize in the Surrey
area include Octagon, Fairclough Homes,
Bryant Homes, Charles Church, Barratt, Latchmere Properties,
Fairview, Laing Homes, Bewley Homes, Kingsway, Beaumonde
Homes, Crest Nicholson and Try Homes.
New Homes Directory.
strange has happened to Surrey prices. The county has many
desirable and highly priced areas, but it used to be a general
rule that the further you went from London the markedly cheaper
these desirable locations became. Thus there was a gap between
prices in Esher and, a few miles further out, Cobham and an
even larger gap between the prices in Esher and those in Guildford.
This is still true but to a much lesser extent, the gap has
diminished. So that nowadays housing in and around Guildford
is not startlingly cheaper than that in the north of the county.
(A fact that reflects the growth of Guildford as a very successful
business centre in its own right. Its workers have also upped
the prices of property in the surrounding villages.) Indeed
you can even sometimes now pay more for the same kind of property
in a desirable location in the south of the county than in
a less desirable location in north Surrey. (Guildford is more
expensive than Croydon or Sutton in all categories of housing).
Moreover, a number of major companies have relocated many
members of staff to new office premises built near the M25
and this has put pressure on the supply of local housing and
pushed up prices. Generally, the east of the county and the
area along its western boundary offer cheaper buying opportunities,
but there are drawbacks to these areas which are the reasons
for the lower prices.
Price falls - some myths laid to rest
Do not be misled into thinking that
property prices in Surrey are immune from falls or
even crashes. In the last property slump (1988-94)
prices fell as dramatically here as elsewhere, disproving
the myth that the rich are somehow protected against
economic downturns or hikes in interest rates. Instead,
in the 1989/91 debacle it was obvious that much expensive
Surrey property had been bought largely with borrowed
money and many swanky homes in prestigious locations
such as St George's Hill were repossessed by the banks.
The current market collapse has likewise affected
Surrey and property prices have tumbled. A lot of
the recent boom was fuelled by high-earning employees
in the financial industry and the shake-out in the
City has had negative effect on Surrey's house prices.
What’s the market doing
14th May 2013
As we predicted, the property market in Surrey is enjoying its most successful spring season for many years. Traditionally, the spring months have always been the high point on the property calandar but for the last two years the key buying season has been very lacklustre. This year, after a slow start, home buyers have been far more abundant and there have been much higher levels of confidence and optimism. What's more, the new mood has spread through most sectors and locations although with some exceptions.
We predicted here, back at the start of the year, that spring sales in 2013 could "do much better than in recent years." Our optimistic forecast was unusual for Surrey Houses as we base our predictions on the day-to-day reality of the market in Surrey which is often at odds with other industry reports that just concentrate unrepresentatively on sales successes. Last December, we could see grounds for an improving property market. We stated in our December market report, "We are a bit more bullish about early 2013 despite the dire economic situation. There is sizeable pent-up demand for house purchase (given the very low sales turnover of the past two years), mortgage rates are relatively low and prices have fallen. What's more, the Government's Funding for Lending Scheme has been increasing the flow of mortgage finance. We therefore think that there will be a pick-up in the number of sales with the inevitable increase in prices for the best properties." While we are not claiming that our upbeat forecast was unique, it was unusual at the time, for estate agents and industry professionals had endured a tough couple of years, culminating in a very weak end of year and so they were generally in a pessimistic mood at the end of 2012. For example, Knight Frank's market update at the end of 2012 under the heading "Looking ahead" stated, "It's clear that the overall picture is of falling prices and reducing levels of activity...... there is likely to be little change in the UK housing market until confidence in the economic recovery improves."
While we cited the Funding for Lending Scheme as a key factor in our upbeat forecast, we did not foresee the surprise intervention in the property market by the Government, announced in the March Budget - a major initiative to assist people with their mortgage deposits. Although the second tranche of this scheme (which applies to all properties up to £600k. not just new-build) does not start until next year, we predicted that the initiative would boost confidence in the market and this is what has happened. The scheme garnered massive media attention, the gist of which gave the impression that the government would be providing new financial help for those wanting to purchase property and this has inevitably encouraged people to consider buying. Hence there have been a lot more would-be purchasers in the last month or so, some of this increased interest has led to sales, while overall the increased interest has created a new mood of optimism and confidence that had been lacking for a long time.
Once again, the biggest demand from buyers has been for good four bedroom family houses in the most desirable locations priced up to £1m. There was also demand for large houses in desirable locations with close proximity to fast trains to London (e.g. Guildford) priced between £1m. and £1.5m. More rural homes have been less in demand, especially multi-million-pound country houses. (Perhaps transport logistics and practicality are currently playing a greater role in the choice of location?) Smaller houses priced up to the stamp duty threshold of £500k. have been in demand but flats have continued to struggle to attract buyers. Overall, buyers have consisently been more active in the most desirable areas and also have favoured trendy interiors, ignoring dated internal presentation unless the property has been very realistically priced as "a project."
In some parts of the county there was a slowing down of new instructions during April, although there was a good influx of rural homes, especially big country houses. Despite the pick-up in sales, there continued to be a very good supply of homes on the market at the end of April, due to there having been so many new instructions in the earlier months of the year, plus lots of properties remaining unsold from last year. The one big the exception where demand outstrips supply is good four bedroom family houses priced up to £1m. in the most expensive areas.
Not surprisingly, because of the increase in sales activity during April, price reductions abated - there were still some, but far fewer than in previous months. Prices still tended to be negotiable, with the exception of new instructions for either very good properties or very modestly priced homes where there were often competing buyers so that asking prices were achieved or even exceeded. Again, because of the increase in sales activity, some properties came to market in April with more bullish price tags than in recent months, especially homes boasting trendy makeovers.
The pick-up in sales activity and the general improvement in confidence in the market has been a very welcome deliverance for beleagured estate agents and vendors. Moreover, it is the nature of the market that sales activity and confiidence are self-feeding, or in other words, momentum builds up and rolls onward, creating more and more sales and, if the circumstances are right, this can lead to a boom. Does the current situation look as if it might lead to to a full-scale property boom? We think not. Although there are more buyers around than this time last year, the numbers are still relatively low while the amount of homes on the market is very high (especially in the top and bottom sectors). Economic woes continue to suppress wage increases and the cost of moving home is prohibitively high for many people (stamp duty is a real financial hurdle). We expect to see the current levels of house purchase continue on through the summer but believe it will start to fizzle out rather than grow, as there won't be enough buyers to carry the momentum forward. The Help to Buy scheme (the first part of the Government's new initiative) which is up and running only applies to new-build properties so does not help get the rest of the market going because the only vendors it helps are developers, there is no onward benefit from a vendor purchasing their next property.
On the other hand, towards the end of the year, as the launch of the second part of the Governement's initiative (the new Mortgage Guarantee scheme) approaches in January 2013 we predict there will be revival in the number of house hunters when people start their property search in order to take advantage of the scheme.
As always, buyers should exert caution in assessing the value of a property. A house or flat is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it at a certain time and if funding is affordable.
FOR PAST MARKET REPORT ARCHIVE
property prices in Surrey
Price Index for March 2013
(latest monthly figures)
price (all types of property) £307,164
Change on previous month: plus 0.7%
(Land Registry figures record completed sales. Since
there is often a time lag of several months between
an agreed sale and the actual legal completion of the
sale, the statistics reflect the state of the house-buying
market some months before they are published.)
The small rise of 0.7% in average price for March follows a 0.3% rise in February and a 0.2% increase in January. Prior to that there was a 0.0% no change performance in December and and 0.5% fall in November. So, the figure for March is the best for some time and overall the statistics indicate a slowly improving market with a definite upward thrust for completions in March. The March completions will mostly have been for sales agreed in the first two months of the year. All the property categories as listed above registered a tiny increase in average price in March.
The comparative monthly performance figure for all
England and Wales in March was not as good as Surrey's
at plus 0.1% while London's figure for the month was far better at plus 2.5%. The average
property price for all England and Wales in March
was £161,793 while the average price for London
On an annual basis (end of March 2012 to end of March 2013) the average price of property in Surrey registered a small increase of 4%. The comparative annual performance figure
for all properties in England and Wales between March 2012 and March 2013 was much lower at plus 0.9%. The
annual figure for London was considerably better than Surrey's at a robust
Note the monthly average price for all
property in Surrey in March as shown above at £307,164 was lower than the same month way back in 2008 - the average price for March 2008 was £309,657 (this figure would have been for sales agreed just before the market crash).
The total number of sales completed during March is not yet available. The most recent
month for which the number of completed sales has been
published by the Land Registry is January. The number
of completed sales in Surrey during January 2013 was
only 1,147 which is a very low figure when compared with the same month in 2007 when there were 2,083 sales. The figure for January 2013 was lower than the same month in 2012 (1,149) although up on 2011 (1,072) and 2009 (652). However, prior to the 2008/9 property crash, sales in January usually totalled above 1,500.
Surrey Houses uses the Land Registry statistics as
a measure of the property market as we like to think
that these offer the most accurate account of property
sales. The widely publicised mortgage lenders' indices
are based on mortgage offers (which may not proceed
to actual sales - indeed around a quarter do not), include
remortgages (which are not sales), do not include properties
bought without a mortgage (traditionally about a fifth
of all sales, but more in the current climate), are
seasonally adjusted and are also weighted for property
type. The fact that the two average price indices published
by the Halifax and the Nationwide often disagree markedly
undermines their reliability. Halifax has around 10%
of the market, Nationwide has a smaller share. The Land
Registry figures, on the other hand, record almost all
Regrettably, the Land Registry House Price Index is
seasonally adjusted, so it does not necessarily reflect
normal seasonal changes in the property market. Surely
it would be better not to "seasonally adjust"
the statistics? Most people can understand that market
activity naturally varies over the year and is traditionally
stronger in the spring and weaker in the winter, but
the Index masks some of these fluctuations. On the other
hand, in recent years, buying activity has not alway
kept to the old traditional pattern, and indeed some
new patterns have emerged - eg. big City-bonus spending
during the winter months in 2005 and 2006 - so how accurate
or useful is seasonal adjustment? Surely it could publish two sets of statistics, one set that is seasonally adjusted and one set that isn't? The Land Registry
also does not include sales of repossessions at auction
or new-build properties or local authority homes sold
at a discount. Moreover, since
the statistics are incomplete when first published and
subsequently revised, the accuracy of the figures is
questionable. This would appear to apply particularly
to the month-to-month comparative price changes as it
seems that the comparison is made between revised (ie
more comprehensive) figures for the prior month and
initial (ie incomplete) figures for the following month,
as published in the "authoritative" Land Registry
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