Home-seekers should buy in the old market towns, such as Chesterfield, Ripley and Bakewell, as they keep their style and character better than bigger towns and cities, says new analysis.
This results in better property values according to research by Lloyds TSB which found the average house price in market towns across England had risen by 103 per cent from £114,718 in 2001 to £233,416 in 2011 – an increase of £989 per month over the past decade.
More than half of market towns in the survey have seen house prices at least double since 2001, with some of the largest price increases in northern England.
The biggest increase was in Stanhope, County Durham where the average price rose 158 per cent from £57,502 to £148,264.
In second place (up 155 per cent) is Ferryhill, Durham (£53,102 to £89,440) followed by Alford, Lincolnshire (£61,165 to £153,104, 150 per cent) and Saltburn, Durham (£55,573 to £136,413, 145 per cent).
Helston, Cornwall (£90,805 to £222,827, 145 per cent) is the only one of the top ten in southern England. It shares a 145 per cent rise with Seahouses, Northumberland (£77,319 to £189,062).
On average, says Lloyds TSB, house prices in market towns are £25,592 (or 12 per cent) higher than their county average.
Beaconsfield, Bucks, enjoys the largest premium. Its homes average £779,986, 157 per cent above the county average of £477,000. It is followed by Wetherby, West Yorkshire (£313,802, 105 per cent above county average); Bakewell, Derbyshire (£312,922, 96 per cent); Southwell, Notts (£254,900, 75 per cent); Keswick, Cumbria (£283,035, 71 per cent) and Middleton St George, Durham (£209,767, 68 per cent).
First-time buyers might struggle to gain a foothold in many market towns, for their average house price, at £233,416, is 6.8 times average gross annual earnings.
Since the start of the housing downturn in 2007 house prices in market towns have risen by five per cent on average.
The top ten most expensive market towns are Beaconsfield (£779,986); Midhurst, Sussex (£406,388); Cranbrook, Kent (£382,064); Petersfield, Hants (£380,935); Winchcombe, Gloucs (£376,946); Saffron Walden, Essex (£371,553); Lewes, Sussex (£366,353); Ringwood, Hants (£351,979); Hungerford, Berks (£3440,706) and Kingsbridge, Devon (£338,072).
Nitesh Patel, Lloyds TSB housing economist, says: “The popularity of living in market towns is clearly evident from the substantial increases in average house prices seen over the past decade, together with the significant premium that many of them command over their neighbouring towns.
“Many of these towns offer an attractive balance between being close to the countryside and ease of access to the road and rail networks that allow residents to commute to work.”
The least expensive market town in southern England is Downham Market in Norfolk (£160,179).