THE property market in Southend is hotting up with house prices rising and homes taking just 18 days to sell.

House prices in Southend have risen by 1.6 per cent in the past year to £152,881 for an average home and are generally being sold within two and a half weeks – 26 days faster than last year, new figures show.

Southend topped a list of the fastest-selling homes in the country, with house buyers snapping up properties two weeks quicker than in London.

Rob Cooke, director of estate agents Hunt Roche, in Leigh, said: “At the moment, there is a shortage of properties and that’s pushing prices up.

“We sold one late yesterday and another two this morning.”

He said the Government’s Help to Buy equity loan scheme, under which it loans house buyers up to a fifth of the value of properties worth up to £600,000, is driving up demand.

Demand is highest for properties worth up to £250,000, the estate agent said.

A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research into the speed with which homes are sold in 20 of the largest towns and cities in the country put Southend joint-top with Liverpool and above London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

John Willcock, head of Post Office Mortgages, which commissioned the research, said: “This year has been a real turning point in the UK housing market with annual house price growth currently 3.4 per cent, the highest level it has been since November 2010.

“But house price data alone often hides a broader picture of recovery. This encouraging fall in the time it now takes to sell a property in Southend, for example, where house price growth is currently below the national level at 1.6 per cent, shows that real confidence is returning to the housing market in the area.”

But the lively market is bad news for first-time buyers trying to get a foothold on the property ladder.

Mr Cooke said: “It’s all relative to a point. If you’re on the ladder already it’s good.

“For people trying to get on the ladder it’s getting tougher.”

Lesley Salter, Southend councillor responsible for housing and Southend’s representative on the Thames Gateway South East Housing Panel, said: “It seems as though the number of visits to see a house before signing is decreasing and the time is going down.”