Farm virus fails to halt soaring prices for rural homes

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House prices in rural areas increased by up to 23 per cent in the past year, despite fears that values had been hit by the foot and mouth crisis, surveyors said yesterday.

House prices in rural areas increased by up to 23 per cent in the past year, despite fears that values had been hit by the foot and mouth crisis, surveyors said yesterday.

The cost of property had risen in all counties affected by the disease a year after the first cases were reported, BBG Surveyors, part of the Bradford & Bingley Group, found.

There had been fears that prices would fall because job losses from farms and falling tourism would lead to reduced demand for property, while movement restrictions during the outbreak would make it difficult for potential buyers to view properties.

But BBG Surveyors said the housing market was so strong that price increases seen in the South-east had spread.

In Cumbria, which was hit hardest by the outbreak, housing demand remained strong, and prices rose by an average of 15 per cent between February 2001 and the same month this year. Britain's biggest mortgage lender, Halifax, said the national average increase during the same period was 16.9 per cent.

In Devon, price jumps of up to 23 per cent were reported on some properties with all homes rising by a minimum of 8 per cent. In Worcestershire the cost of a semi-detached house soared by an average of 22 per cent, while in Shropshire prices rose by up to 15 per cent.

But surveyors reported a slight slowdown in the number of sales in both Shropshire and Herefordshire where movement restrictions held up viewings and surveys.

Peter Bray, operations director at BBG Surveyors, said: "The effects of foot and mouth ... did not extend to a downturn in the property market. In fact we saw a steady growth in property prices."

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