Dream properties of 1996

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This has been the year of London and the Home Counties. Anyone looking for a period house in the country near London can expect a muted response from an estate agent; ask about prices, and the conversation will become animated. Some prices have increased by 10 to 15 per cent; others by as much as 20 per cent. The trouble is, there has not been enough of what people want. Good quality and good location have always commanded a premium, but this year buyers soon realised that there would be competition for the best houses of their type.

Plenty of people have been sitting on cash, with nothing to sell. Their only course of action when finding the perfect house has been to offer as much as it is worth to them. As one buyer told an agent: "I will buy it out of the market." Prices for these houses - a waterside cottage in Hampshire, a mansion in Surrey, a flat in Belgravia - have surpassed even the estate agents' expectations. Here are a few that the agents themselves have found memorable.

Penny Jackson