THERE is a fair chance these days that the amateur developer can beat the big boys at their own game. The shortage of good houses, particularly in towns and villages, means that building plots are selling to frustrated private buyers.

Andrew Brown, of Clegg Kennedy Drew, says even though they know in their heart of hearts that they are paying top whack, for them it is worth it. On single plots they are beating the developer every time because they have no profit margins to worry about. It's the same with run-down properties.

The last three people in the current bidding for two Cotswold cottages are all individuals. "Of the 55 people we showed around, only 12 were developers," Andrew Brown says. "They looked at the lovely position of the cottages and knew they hadn't got a chance since anyone who wanted it as a home would pay over the odds."

The cottage industry feel to the rental market looks like changing. Savills has identified six corporate investors who want to invest pounds 400m in buying property to let this year. That will account for about 9,000 properties across the country, not all of course coming on to the market for the first time, especially since the companies seem particularly keen to buy portfolios.

Savills regards its long-term interest in the rental market as a good omen for its future. At present the sector has a somewhat home-spun feel as about 56 per cent of landlords are private individuals. Apparently the companies are particularly keen on blocks in Manchester, Leeds and Bristol.

Space is vital at the moment. Berkeley Homes is building large leisure rooms with three of its houses in Horsham, Sussex. They will either be put above the garage or as an annexe to homes which are already in the region of 3,800 to 4,000 sq ft, which translates as at least five bedrooms, three bathrooms and three or four reception rooms. The extra room will be wired for office use or for children. Berkeley is even considering building basements into its homes on selected sites.