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A house in Hampstead that has hidden its north London origins behind a new Japanese personality, has just come on the market. Two adjoining houses in Fitzjohns Avenue were replanned and redesigned with specially selected materials. A stream runs along the full length of the properties (which are reached by means of a slatted bridge) and a sunken Japanese garden is filled with pebbles, ferns and bamboo. One of the houses only is for sale at an asking price of pounds 435,000 through Goldschmidt & Howland (0171-435 4404). The main bedroom has a low-level custom-made Japanese platform bed and sliding shoji cupboards made from yellow rice paper.

For what it's worth

Housebuilders have just had their busiest month for two years and the prospects look good, according to the latest report for the House Builders Federation. New homes have increased their market share to almost 13 per cent from the 10 per cent at which they had been stuck since 1988. John Stewart, an independent housing economist and author of the report, says they are managing to fill a gap in the market because of sensitive prices and attractive marketing. "When I did some research with the Halifax we found a lack of confidence among intending homebuyers: they were not sure they would be able to sell their present homes. In buying a new home the hassle-free factor is very important," he said.

This bears out evidence from builders such as Barratt of a new breed of buyer at the top end of the market who, frustrated by the lack of good property available, is turning to developers for the first time. The success of Barratt's award-winning development, Lakeside Grange, in Weybridge, Surrey, looks like being matched by its latest enterprise on the River Thames at Chiswick. At the recent opening of Royal Thames Crescent, all but three of the 19 five-bedroom houses and 13 two-bedroom apartments, with prices ranging up to pounds 600,000, have been sold.