BUYERS are outstripping the number of houses for sale by 15 to one.

The buoyant market has pushed up prices in the Colchester area by as much as 16 per cent in the past three months, while the average house price in Essex has rocketed 11 per cent in the past year.

Perry Rose, manager of Colchester Haart estate agents in Head Street, said: “There is still a shortage of homes on sale, with 15 times as many prospective purchasers on our books compared to properties available.

“However, we are starting to see more property coming up for sale.

“We predict a surge when people return from their summer holidays, switching from a seller’s to a buyer’s market as we head into the autumn.”

Haart says the average price of property sold through its branches in Colchester, Manningtree and Wivenhoe rose by 12.25 per cent in the past quarter.

The highest increase was semidetached houses, where prices increased 15.76 per cent to £206,865.

Danni Argent, 24, recently bought a house in Gavin Way, Colchester, with her fiance Alex, 26. She said: “When we started looking, from January to May, prices for similar houses appeared to have increased by about 10 per cent.

“A house would come on the market one day and the same sized house on the same estate would come up two weeks later for a lot more. We couldn’t believe how fast prices seemed to be rising. We sold our flat 20 months after buying it with a 14 per cent increase, but it meant we knew we’d have to spend more than we wanted to.

“Also, the speed the houses were selling at was astonishing.

Ahouse came on the market on a Thursday and by the time we went to look at it on the Saturday it had sold. We feel extremely lucky to have been quick enough and in a position where we could make an offer on the house we fell in love with immediately, otherwise it would have been snapped up.”

According to property website Rightmove, average asking prices in Essex are £289,957, an increase of 11 per cent since the housing market was at its precrisis peak in May 2008.

The increases in Suffolk and Kent were only 1.7 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.