BLAENAU Gwent is the cheapest place to get on the property ladder in England and Wales after prices fell by a record 15 per cent in a year.

Average house prices dropped to £63,443 in the Gwent borough while increasing by a record 13.8 per cent to reach £414,356 in London, latest Land Registry figures show.

Darlows estate agents in Brynmawr said some houses are going for as little as £40,000 in the least affluent parts of Blaenau Gwent such as Blaina, Nantyglo or Abertillery.

Estate agents told the Argus the fall in value led to a surge in sales.

One Brynmawr company, Bidmead Cook, said their business had increased by nearly 50 per cent since the beginning of this year.

The surge has been partly fuelled by the introduction of the Help to Buy scheme in Wales, letting first-time buyers get on the property ladder with five per cent mortgages.

Property investors also took advantage of the conditions to buy homes in Blaenau Gwent to let out.

Bidmead Cook manager Melissa Totterdale, 32, said yesterday: “We have done very well.

“Because house prices have come down, it’s easier for first-time buyers to get on the property ladder.

“Deposits are reduced. Sales have actually soared. Generally we are selling in a three-month period.”

Darren Joyce, 38, a manager at Darlows, stressed prices varied in Blaenau Gwent with strong pockets like Brynmawr and Ebbw Vale.

At the other end of the scale, Mr Joyce indicated that areas like Abertillery had been affected by socio-economic conditions such as low employment but stressed this could improve with town regeneration plans. Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith said: “The Government’s policies are hitting the valleys, while the south east of England is bubbling.

“Our unemployment rate stands at 8.5 per cent, with 2,672 people on Jobseeker’s Allowance.”

The Land Registry survey shows Blaenau Gwent saw the greatest annual price fall with a 15.1 per cent reduction between February 2013 and February 2014.

House prices rose by 1.1 per cent in Newport to £113,344, 1.3 per cent in Caerphilly to 96,361, 2.9 per cent in Torfaen to 100,500 and 5.8 per cent in Monmouthshire to £177,808.

Davis & Sons estate agents in Caldicot said house prices in Monmouth, Chepstow and surrounding villages were “premium”.

Proprietor Lisa Lemaire, 44, said: “We’ve seen a 20 to 25 per cent increase in sales.