Activity has also increased, with 25 per cent more instructions in the first six months of 1994 compared with the same period last year, and 17 per cent more sales. So far Winkworth sees no evidence of the market slipping away in June, as it did last year. In fact the firm completed more sales in the first week of this month than in any week since the beginning of the year.
Simon Agace, the firm's chairman, expects prices to fall back a little over the summer, but stands by his prediction, made at the start of 1994, of a 30 per cent rise in central London prices over the next two years. 'Winkworth is by no means alone in categorically stating that the recent Halifax report that prices are falling does not apply to the London market,' he says.
The first sign that the recovery has reached the rentals market comes from Knight Frank & Rutley. The firm has just re-let a mews house in Belgravia for pounds 420 a week - an increase of 12 per cent on the previous rent. A flat in Kensington has also been re- let for pounds 15 a week more than the outgoing tenant was paying.
Robert Orr-Ewing, head of lettings for Knight Frank & Rutley in Chelsea, said the increases were due to a growing shortage of good rental property. His remarks echo those of agents in outlying areas of the capital who report strong demand (and even competition, in some cases) for places to rent.
CHARLES CHURCH, the new- homes builder, says that recovery is spreading beyond the capital. The firm reports that prices in May were 5 per cent up on last year and says activity in the Home Counties is particularly strong. Stewart Baseley, its chief executive, said it had no evidence that April's tax increases had dented buyers' confidence.
This month has also seen a record price for a private property in the East Midlands. A business couple paid more than the asking price of pounds 2.6m for Holywell Hall, a 10-bedroom Georgian mansion built of yellow Clipsham stone, with a listed orangery, lakes and a private chapel in its 67-acre grounds. The house was sold by Geoffrey van Cutsem of Savills.
THE AGENTS describe them as properties needing vision and determination. They might add a good builder to the list. Two derelict shells with the potential to become good family houses have come up for sale this month. Seven Points sits on top of the South Downs on the Goodwood estate in Sussex, less than a mile from the racecourse. Ashmans Hall is set in seven acres of Suffolk countryside on the outskirts of Beccles. In both cases, all you get are the walls.
Seven Points is a white-fronted brick shell with arched windows, which would convert into a four- bedroom house. It is being sold at auction at Goodwood House on Wednesday 20 July by Henry Adams & Partners (0243 533377) with a guide price of pounds 125,000.
Ashmans Hall consists of a main house with two large, derelict wings behind. Its skeleton reveals it once had a domed roof on one corner. The Hall, which could be converted into a very large family house, is being sold by Bedford Country Property Agents (0284 769999) with a guide price of pounds 150,000.Reuse content