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, cycling, 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Usually when journalists refer to Surrey they sloppily still use the outdated cliche "Surrey's stockbroker belt" which refers back to the early part of the last century when affluent City professionals commuted by train from large mock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, Woking) media celebrities (Michael
Caine at Leatherhead, Judi Dench at Outwood ) and sport
superstars (Andy Murray at Oxshott, Colin Montgomerie and Jamie Redknap
in Oxshott, Phil Tufnell in Tadworth). Lots of Chelsea Football Club players, including John Terry, the former England football captain, have moved into the environs of Cobham, following the establishment of their training ground in the small 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. Indeed, the hugely expensive St. George's Hill private estate at Weybridge has acted as a magnet for Russians and today around a quarter of the properties are owned by Russians or East Europeans.
Not surprisingly, parts of Surrey can have a rather 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 high global profile in the international computer and technology industries. Also the county has a strong entrepreneurial element and a recent survey found that there are more start-up businesses with big turnovers in Surrey than in any other county outside London. Thus while once Surrey was a domitory county, where 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 usually 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 and it sometimes seems that the county is running out of road space. It is vital that prospective buyers do not limit their property viewing to weekends, but to check the traffic situation during peak times on weekdays.
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 and
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 new tunnel at Hindhead (the longest road tunnel under land in the UK) has eased
the flow of traffic on the A3 into Hampshire and to the south coast at Portsmouth.
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 mainline 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
38 minutes to Waterloo whereas a fast train from Woking, much
further out to the south-west, can take only 28 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. Stations in the west of
Surrey are linked to West London e.g. Hounslow.
Note that the Anglia Railways service on the map has been discontinued, the South Central line is now run by Southern and Thames Trains are now run by First Great Western.
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 future consideration, the projected London Crossrail 2, which is planned to connect south-west London with north-east London, could possibly be extended south of Wimbledon into Surrey. Public consultation on the route is taking place but potential stations that have been mentioned are Kingston, Surbiton, Motspur Park, Shepperton, Hampton Court, Epsom and Chertsey. Obviously, should this extended route become a reality, locations close to the Surrey stops would experience a bigincrease in desirability. But don't hold your breath, the first stage of London Crossrail (from east to west which doesn't include Surrey stations) is not due to open until 2018, so who knows when Crossrail 2 would be in operation, if ever?
For detailed information on timetables see the websites
for South West Trains,
Southern, First Great Western, 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.
A tram service runs from Wimbledon through Croydon with many stations en route linking different parts of the large borough of Croydon.
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.
Heathrow is currently wanting to expand by building a third runway, which is provisionally planned to be north of the current runways. However, there is major opposition to this proposal. Previous Governments have decreed that there will be no new runway at Gatwick until after 2019 but the airport has now put forward a plan to build a second runway to the existing one and claim it could be open by 2025.
There are also small aerodromes at Redhill and Chobham used by light aircraft and helicopters. Nuisance levels from these are usually worse at the weekend. Blackbushe Airport, again used by light aircraft and helicopters, lies on the Surrey/Hampshire border at Camberley.
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 Also see www.heathrowairport.com/noise. .
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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
older properties 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.
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. Highly paid local employers and employees 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 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 two property slumps (1988-94 and 2007-9)
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 last market collapse also likewise affected
Surrey and property prices tumbled. A lot of
the 2006/7 boom was fuelled by high-earning employees
in the financial industry and the shake-out in the
City had a negative effect on Surrey's house prices.
What’s the market doing
12th October 2015
As expected there was a definite revival in the Surrey property market during September. After a quiet summer season, sales picked up significantly with buyers keen to secure a property before the advent of winter. This applied across the board at all price levels, although there was somewhat less enthusiasm at above around £1.3m. Indeed, not all was rosy, for while sales revived, the number of new instructions failed to improve especially at the bottom of the market.
Moreover, even though sales revived in September, a cautionary mood pervaded and it was by no means a totally robust market firing on all cylinders. The multi-million-pound sector remained pretty comatose, thanks to international economic uncertainty and the recent swingeing changes to stamp duty at this level. Elsewhere, over-ambitious pricing left many properties unsold. Today's buyers generally have very high expectations and are extremely selective (though often judgement is based on superficial aspects of a property rather than the fundamentals). When a property fails to meet buyers' high expectations and is also perceived to be over-priced, it is quickly rejected.
So while the market did experience a traditional autumn spurt, after a lacklustre summer, September proved disappointing for many vendors and agents. This was made worse for agents by the fact that new instructions failed to increase substantially in September. Normally an autumn revival in sales would be matched by a revival in new instructions - once the holiday season is over, people plan to move in time for Christmas. This year, while there was an increase in new instructions compared to the previous months, the increase was small, especially for properties below £400k.. However, as noted last month, despite the lack of new instructions, it is not a case of a genuine lack of supply - with the exception of the bottom of the market where Heip to Buy schemes, low interest rates and enthusiasm for buy-to-let have created high demand - no, there is a good supply of homes on the market but they are overvalued for what they are and therefore would-be buyers continue hunting for the right property at the right price and agents bemoan the lack of properties to match demand.
The few new instructions that did appear last month mainly carried ambitious price tags, in some cases jaw-droppingly ambitious. It is likely that the high prices are a result of agents over-valuing in order to get the instruction, hoping that this particular property may find a willing buyer in what should be a bullish market. In direct contrast to these high valuations, many homes that were already on the market had their prices reduced last month. Price reductions were mainly in the order of 5%, but more substantial discounting also took place, especially at the upper levels e.g. a six bedroom house in Kingston upon Thames reduced by 18.9%, from a starting price of £3.495m. in June to £2.995m. in September, a five bedroom house in Farnham down by 13.9% from £1.8m. in February to £1.55m. in September and a three bedroom semi in Dorking down from £950k. in May to £850k. in September, a fall of just over 10%.
Overall, the question of correct pricing is becoming more and more confused. Agents are finding it increasingly difficult to get it right. The key criteria used to be location, accommodation, presentation and character, roughly in that order, but now presentation,
(as in the just-installed-showroom style) has zoomed up to a higher position and tends to influence agents' judgement. Energy and maintenance costs also now play a far more important role in buyers' decisions. So the ground rules for property valuation have changed and agents are often in the dark, hence there is a huge inconsistency in asking prices.
We anticipate that the current autumn revival will continue and may well intensify over the next month. The strength at the bottom of the market will create sales further up the property ladder. The dearth of new instructions will help those vendors who have failed to find buyers, especially if they agree to drop prices, and will create a tighter marketplace so that there really may be a genuine lack of supply. At the top of the market it is likely to be a different story. The multi-million-pound sector is beleaguered and there is no reason to think anything is going to change for the better in the near future. Surrey has far too many homes on the market priced in excess of £2m.. A few years ago it was rare to find a home for sale in Surrey priced above £2m. but now such properties are commonplace, though sales are not, and the number of homes on the market above £4m. in the county is astounding.
As usual, 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 available and affordable.
FOR PAST MARKET REPORT ARCHIVE
property prices in Surrey
Price Index for August 2015
(latest monthly figures)
price (all types of property) £374,924
Change on previous month: plus 0.6%
(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 0.6% increase in average price for August follows a 0.9% rise in July, a 0.5% rise in June, a no-change 0.0% performance in May, a 0.5% increase in April, a no-change 0.0% in March, a 0.4% rise in February, 0.5% rise in January. Thus, August shows a very slight deterioration in performance, although still an increase in average price. So far this year the statistics reveal only very slight monthly upward movements in prices. Last year there was a much stronger set of price rises especially in the latter part of the year: 1.1% in October, 1.4% in September, 1.6% in August, 1.5% in July, 1.0% in June, 0.6% in May and 0.7% in both April and March.
All the property types listed above experienced a slight rise in average price during August.
Note that at £374,924 the average price for property in August exceeds the highest average figure for Surrey that was achieved prior to the crash (£309,914 recorded in March 2008). The average price of property in Surrey is not only back to its pre-crash level but has overtaken it by a long way.
The comparative monthly performance figure for all
England and Wales in August was slightly lower than Surrey's at plus 0.5% while London's figure was much higher than Surrey's at an impressive plus 1.7%. The average
property price for all England and Wales in August was £184,682 while the average price for London
On an annual basis (end of August 2014 to end of August 2015) the average price of property in Surrey recorded a robust increase of 8%. The comparative annual performance figure
for all properties in England and Wales between August 2014 and August 2015 was much lower at plus 4.2%. The
annual figure for London was also suprisingly lower at
The total number of sales completed during August is not yet available. The most recent
month for which the number of completed sales has been
published by the Land Registry is June. The number
of completed sales in Surrey during June 2015 was 1,646 which was a substantial fall from the 1,961 sales in June 2014. Sales in June this year were higher than the low June figure of 1,267 recorded in 2008 during the property crash, but sales were much lower than the 2,997 figure for June 2006, during the property boom. Prior to the crash, sales in June typically exceeded 2,000.
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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