Sell it in the supermarket

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The Independent Online
If you go out to Asda today, you could pick up a £2.99 video featuring details and pictures of up to 100 houses for sale. Customers view them at home and call a free number for more details.

The video is being sponsored by the Alliance and Leicester building society, which has 73 estate agency offices. But the properties featured can come from any estate agent or from private sellers, who are charged £99 plus VAT to advertise on it.

Videos are organised on a regional basis: the North, South, East, West and Scotland. The Alliance and Leicester hopes to break these down into more specific regions if the idea proves successful.

This is the latest in a wave of innovations in the estate agency market. Its success will depend on the quality of the videos and how far they manage to capture the atmosphere of a property.

House prices are low, mortgages are too expensive and there has been no improvement in the market over the past 12 months. It all sounds familiar, until you realise these gloomy comments apply to property in France, rather than Britain.

The bubble burst in 1990, most spectacularly in Paris, where prices have fallen by up to 40 per cent over the past five years. While the London market began to emerge from the depression in late 1992, the Paris market has stayed depressed.

A table published this month in Le Figaro shows prices per square metre in the Boulevard Saint Germain falling from a peak of Fr35,000 to Fr24,000. With Eurostar offering a three-hour service from London, should Paris be a hunting ground for British buyers?

Only if they are very wealthy, would seem to be the answer. Even with the latest price falls, Paris is still more expensive than central London. Knight Frank & Rutley estimates that a two-bedroom flat in one of the smartest neighbourhoods would cost around £300,000. It is not exactly an irresistible offer for most British buyers, but for investors who can afford it, now is a good time to buy.

Anyone tuning in for The Archers tomorrow morning probably has an image of how Ambridge looks - pretty cottages and farms set in the rolling browns and greens of the Warwickshire countryside. Chamba Cottage in the village of Moreton Morrell, near Leamington Spa, is set in country like this and dates from the 17th century. In a good example of life imitating soap opera, its owner turns out to be the actress who plays Caroline in the Radio 4 saga. Chamba Cottage has a sitting room, conservatory/ dining room, three bedrooms and a pretty garden. It is being sold by Knight Frank & Rutley in Stratford-upon-Avon (0789 297735) with an asking price of £149,000.

The same agent is handling another pretty house which forms part of the sale of an Elizabethan hamlet near Loxwood, in West Sussex. Brewhurst House sits in 14 acres of spectacular gardens which include topiary yew hedges, a swan pond and a walled vegetable garden.

The house is 500 years old and listed Grade II. It has a vast reception hall, five more reception rooms, six bedrooms, four bathrooms and a two- bedroom annexe. It is being sold either as a single lot for £560,000 or can be bought along with a number of other buildings in the hamlet.