The number of towns recording an annual rise in home sales has fallen back to its lowest level since 2008, a report said today.
Just 40% or 202 out of 500 towns tracked in England and Wales saw a rise in home sales in 2011, less than half the proportion found the previous year, when 82% of towns experienced an increase.
Some 59% of the towns that saw rises are in the North, compared with 41% in the South, a reversal of the previous year's figures when 53% of "property sales hotspots" were in the South.
The report suggested this is due to a lack of homes being put on the market in southern regions over the last year, which has helped to keep prices up due to the restricted choice for buyers but has meant sales have been relatively low. Property sales have halved generally since the peak of the market in 2007.
Prices rose by 0.2% annually on average across the 10 towns that saw the biggest drop in property sales, in contrast to the 4.5% fall in house prices among the 10 towns recording the biggest sales rises.
Researchers found that 61% of towns surveyed in both the North of England and East Anglia had an annual rise in sales, meaning these regions had the highest proportion of property sales hotspots, closely followed by the West Midlands which had 60%.
But London, which has frequently recorded the strongest price rises, had the lowest proportion of sales hotspots in 2011 at just 16%, having seen sales decline by 6% annually.
Suren Thiru, Lloyds TSB housing economist, said: "The overall level of housing market activity across England and Wales has weakened over the past year, reflecting the concerns over the outlook for the UK economy.
"Additionally, consumers are experiencing difficulties in raising the necessary deposit, which is preventing many potential home buyers from entering the market.
"Generally, property prices in the North continue to be weaker than in the South."The Norfolk town of Thetford recorded the biggest annual sales increase in southern England with an 18.5% rise and was the only southern town in the top 10.
Eight of the 10 towns with the largest declines in home sales in 2011 are in the South of England, with Tower Hamlets in London recording the largest fall at 22%.
But house prices rose by 1.8% annually in Tower Hamlets, while they fell by 3.2% in Bilston, reflecting the weakness in prices in towns which saw the strongest rises in sales compared with those which recorded the biggest falls.
The study used Land Registry figures.
Here are the towns with the highest annual percentage increase in property sales in 2011, with the sales percentage change followed by the price percentage change:
Bilston, West Midlands, 30.7%, minus 3.2%
Rugeley, West Midlands, 30.6%, minus 6.8%
Bootle, North West, 21.0%, 5.1%
Washington, North, 19.6%, minus 5.6%
Wednesbury, West Midlands, 19.4%, minus 4.1%
Thetford, East Anglia, 18.5%, minus 2.0%
Ellesmere Port, North West, 17.5%, minus 6.6%
South Shields, North, 17.3%, minus 4.4%
Macclesfield, North West, 17.2%, minus 10.2%
Bury, North West, 17.1%, minus 7.2%
And here are the towns with the largest percentage fall in property sales, with the sales percentage change followed by the price percentage change:
Tower Hamlets, London, minus 22.2%, 1.8%
Potters Bar, South East, minus 19.6%, 3.1%
Penzance, South West, minus 18.7%, minus 4.3%
Maidenhead, South East, minus 17.5%, 3.0%
West Malling, South East, minus 17.3%, 3.5%
Amersham, South East, minus 16.7%, 6.0%
Redbridge, London, minus 16.6%, 3.3%
Aberdare, Wales, minus 16.2%, minus 6.2%
Blyth, North, minus 16.1%, minus 10.8%
Harpenden, South East, minus 16.0%, 2.7%
Here is the percentage of towns recording an annual rise in sales per region:
:: East Anglia, 61%
:: East Midlands, 48%
:: North, 61%
:: North West, 54%
:: South East, 29%
:: South West, 29%
:: Wales, 43%
:: West Midlands, 60%
:: Yorkshire and Humberside, 44%
:: London, 16%