Estate agents disagree with gloomy empty homes report

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The number of empty homes in the South Ribble area has risen by 65 per cent in a year, according to new research.

The borough came 10th in a list of the top 20 areas for largest increases, with 551 empty properties in October 2012, compared to 716 in October 2013.

But a local estate agent said the results could be an anomaly as their experience of the local housing market has been positive over recent months.

The Empty Homes Agency analysis shows that the North West has the highest number of empty homes at 130,081, accounting for 21 per cent of all the empty homes in England, but the charity were unavailable to comment why this is.

Helen Williams, chief executive of Empty Homes, said: “Great strides have been made in reducing the number of homes that remain empty, but in some areas the numbers are on the rise again, and with around one and a half million households on council waiting lists we cannot afford to take our eye off tackling the national waste of empty homes.”

Peter Holden, managing director of Lostock Hall-based estate agency Holdens, said: “We’ve found that the market is pretty good in South Ribble.

“You will always get empty houses, because people die, and people who have been renting houses out might decide to sell them, but I wouldn’t say that there’s more empty homes around here than anywhere else.”

He added: “We opened last year and the market was very steady, then in winter things really started to pick up, which is unusual for the time of year.

“We’ve also had a very positive start of the year, when typically, over the past 10 years, you might expect to sell more homes in the spring and late in the summer.

“I wouldnt’t say that prices have risen massively around here, but they’re steady and they are higher than we were seeing a few years ago.”

In comparison, Preston saw a decrease in empty properties over the same period from 1,078 to 842, in Chorley the number dropped from 753 to 624, in Lancaster the figure fell from 960 to 914, and in West Lancashire, it fell from 747 to 710.

Ribble Valley saw its number of empty homes increase from 278 to 319, a 41 per cent increase.