Property hot spot

ELY has grown from a sleepy market town to a fashionable place to be . In a relatively short amount of time big names in the world of retail have started fighting for prime sites in the city centre and Londoners are ditching their chic city pads to buy a

ACROSS East Cambridgeshire the housing market is booming with properties selling like hot cakes in Ely city. This is fantastic news for homeowners, but not such glad tidings for first-time buyers trying to get a foothold on the property ladder. LESLEY INNES looks at the region’s property market and finds out why Ely and its villages are proving such a draw for house-hunters.

ELY has grown from a sleepy market town to a fashionable 'place to be'.

In a relatively short amount of time big names in the world of retail have started fighting for prime sites in the city centre and Londoners are ditching their chic city pads to buy a place in the fens.

Experts claim Ely is the fastest growing city in Europe - and the housing market seems to be keeping pace.

Recent interest rate charges don't seem to have put off prospective buyers and For Sale boards are springing up across the district.

In the city, houses are selling almost as fast as they are coming onto the market and, if the prices are competitive, village properties are following suit.

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Over the last year, prices have soared by an impressive eight per cent on average with some first time buyer properties increasing by up to 14 per cent. And there doesn't seem to be any sign of a slowdown.

For home owners this is excellent news, with equity growing in their properties and plenty of competitive remortgaging deals around should their current lenders not keep pace.

But it can be challenging for first-time buyers desperate to get a foot on the first rung of the housing ladder.

It seems, however, that they have learnt some lessons from the Cambridge market and are rising to the challenge.

Estate agents report that many young buyers are ditching the prospect of one-bedroom flats or small two-bedroom terraced houses for larger, more impressive properties.

They are calling on parents to back up their mortgages and opting for something bigger.

Andrea Stevens, assistant manager of Haart on Forehill, Ely said: "A lot of people are buying something a little bit bigger with their parents' help. There are lots of different mortgages out there for first time buyers.

"People are realising that rather than buy a two-bed house, which they will have grown out on in a few years they can push their mortgage up by another £20,000 and go for a larger property which might need some work.

"The market has been as good in the last two weeks as it was two year's ago. We are absolutely flying. We are now seeing 50 per cent of buyers coming from within the area and 50 per cent from outside."

Andrea added that people living in London have realised it can take longer to drive across London to get to work than living in Ely and going by train into King's Cross.

"They realise they can sell their two-bed terrace in London and buy a five-bed out here," she said. "People are realising Ely is part of East Anglia and it is within the commuter band."

One of Ely's newest estate agents, Haart, has also enjoyed buoyant sales since moving into the city in October.

Sales manager Roy Thomson said: "It's a seller's market so long as a property is priced accordingly. Properties in Ely city are selling well but in the villages price is more important.

"It's good news for home owners but not such good news for first time buyers."

He added that, in the same way Cambridge first time buyers looked for mortgage support from their parents, Ely youngsters are doing the same.

"It's a natural progression," he added.

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