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Historical Regional House Price Ratios - Where is Cheap Today?

Peter Hemple looks at historical property price ratios within the UK regions

The trend is your friend until it ends (or bends)'. Whether it is deciding where to invest in property or what company to buy shares in on the stock market, there is a lot to be said for following the herd, especially when the going is good. Bubbles tend to inflate far more than most people expect before they eventually pop, or gently deflate, but the outcome is always the same…those that arrive late to the party will always be nursing the worst hangover, much like a 'pyramid selling scheme'.

If you want to arrive late to the party today you might want to buy property in London (up 47.3% over the past five years) and use whatever leftover cash you have to buy some shares in Apple Inc. (share price up over 300% over the past five years). But you might want to look elsewhere for better returns. It is not that you can't or won't make money investing in either at today's prices, but you will probably need to measure your success over a much longer timeframe because after such rapid price appreciation in recent years there is usually an adjustment period.

For example, investors often gage whether to buy gold or silver by monitoring the long-term price ratio between the two. So, if gold is usually 60 times more expensive than silver, when gold is valued 100 times more expensive they buy silver and when it is only 40 times more expensive they buy gold etc.

I have applied the same formula to UK property, looking at average quarterly prices for all 13 regions over the past 40 years (from Q1 1975 to Q4 2014), using Nationwide house price data. By comparing the current regional property price to the current UK property price, we can cross check that ratio with the average 40 year ratio to get an idea of which regions currently look cheap and which look overpriced (there are no prizes for guessing the latter)!

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