Would you buy a house priced at 1 pound (about $1.52)? Many people in the northern English city of Stoke-On-Trent would.
Hundreds of people have already applied to purchase empty, derelict and dilapidated homes being offered by the City Council of Stoke -- a town about 50 miles south of Manchester -- as part of a 3 million pound program to revitalize some of its most depressed neighborhoods.
According to the council, in the initial phase of the project, the municipal government will offer to sell 35 rundown properties, mostly two-bedroom terraced homes, in Portland Street in the Cobridge neighborhood, to randomly selected, qualified applicants.
On the whole, the council seeks to sell 124 similar properties on both Portland and Bond streets.
The average house price in the United Kingdom is currently 163,943 pounds, according to mortgage lender Halifax -- more than 35,000 pounds below the peak price recorded in August 2007.
Thus, the 1 pound cost would appear to be an incredible bargain.
However, prospective home buyers should be warned that the 1 pound price tag is only the initial investment.
The council said it will initially cover the cost of refurbishing the homes and will sell them for 1 pound.
“The new owners will have to pay back the cost of the refurbishment over a set period of time,” the council said.
The council will offer loans of up to 30,000 pounds, which must be paid back in 10 years with interest -- to assist with essential repairs on the homes.
“This investment will give the Portland Street area a new lease of life, injecting a sense of pride and energy into the community,” local Labour councilor Majid Khan said in a statement. “We have worked closely with existing residents throughout the process, and their input has been invaluable to getting the scheme up and running.”
Prospective buyers must satisfy a number of requirements: residency in Stoke for the past three years, a joint annual income of 18,000 pounds to 25,000 pounds (30,000 pound maximum if they have children) and steady employment for the past two years, among others.
Buyers must also agree to live in the house they buy for the next five years and must not already own any other property.
Applications for the houses will expire on May 12.
Another major northern English city, Liverpool, offered 20 derelict homes for sale recently at 1 pound each -- the local city council noted that 2,000 people offered to snap them up.
Stoke-on-Trent, which was hit hard by the decline of UK manufacturing in the 1980s, had an unemployment rate of about 9.2 percent (for men) and 7.6 percent (for women) for the period ended July 2012 versus figures of 8.6 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively, for England as a whole.
Available housing stock in the city has been falling for years.
The 1 pound houses in depressed parts of northern England are somewhat reminiscent of $1 houses being offered for sale in the economically devastated city of Detroit in the United States.
Last month, WantChinaTimes.com reported that the fire-sale prices of Detroit homes have even attracted the attention and interest of some Chinese buyers, who have grown weary of soaring real estate prices in their native country and seek to relocate.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.