Hot Spot: Bath

Latest plug for the village life

Bath is getting another bath. Late next year, the historic spot will unveil a new spa in the city centre, near to the original Roman baths, and fed by one of three natural hot springs.

Another attraction to lure still more tourists and tourist buses will not be welcomed by everyone who lives in Bath, but the visitors leave substantial amounts of cash in the area and the contribution helps improve the amenities.

But many in Bath are doing what neighbours have already done - taking the money and running. "Many of our customers are selling their properties in Bath, taking advantage of enormously high prices in the city and buying in a village within 20 miles of it," saysone estate agent, Michael Gould, who is based in Midsomer Norton and sells properties in Bath's surrounding villages.

"Bath is second only to London as the highest-priced city in the UK, and if you compare salaries in the two places, it is even more expensive to buy and live there."

Bath estate agent John Cowley says: "Bath is strangled by the green belt, so there is very little new development. Many people who work in Bath and want to live there have to buy in country areas. First-timers are under pressure. They can't buy for under £60,000."

But prices in country areas are also rapidly escalating. Mr Gould says: "We just sold the last of David Wilson new homes, a four-bedroom detached in Pease for £224.000. A year ago it would have struggled to fetch £140,000. This has spread to other nearby villages, Peasedown St John, Wellow and Camerton. In Midsomer Norton, prices have increased 25% in six months.''

Some villages are doing better than others, and for once the explanation is not school catchment areas. "This is probably because they are within a few miles of one of the two park-and-rides in Bath, which is a difficult city to get into by car," says Mr Gould. "And public transportation from the villages is not great. Many people commute to London and use the park-and-ride daily. It is frequently full."

Although investment properties continue to be snapped up quickly, Mr Cowley urges caution. "There is a lot of investment buying, and this market may be in danger of overheating," he says. "There is only a certain number of people wanting to rent. Investors have created the boom. They took houses out of the market, reducing supply.

"People assume that letting is a licence to print money. They forget voids, repairs, testing the gas, furniture and repairs."