CHELMSFORD’S property market is in the best shape it has been in for eight years, experts claim.

Good schools, proximity to London, the countryside and the recently acquired city status are all driving demand for property, according to estate agents.

The latest figures show house prices across the south East increased by a further 3.5 per cent in January - with the average property now worth 7.8 per cent more than this time last year.

And Martin Orchard, director of estate agent Owen Lyons, based in Duke Street, said things have gone a little mad.

“We’re putting some houses on the market and they are going almost straight away,” he told the Weekly News.

“Last week, we put a property in Old Moulsham on the market, valued at £350,000 and within two days it had been sold for £360,000.

“It shows that demand is outstripping supply, particularly on properties under £400,000.

“There’s just more people looking for houses at the moment than there are selling.”

Mr Orchard said that in 2009 and at the start of last year, there was a flurry of strong demand but that didn’t last.

He added: “I think this time there’s a bit more force behind it.

“People are still cautious, but there’s more confidence.

“2006 was quite a busy year, the market was bouyant. But this is the best we’ve seen since then.”

Mr Orchard told the Weekly News he believes many buyers were attracted to Chelmsford because of the quality of its schools.

The city council’s Conservative leader Roy Whitehead welcomed the news, but said rising house prices was a double edged sword.

He said: “It’s not so good for people trying to get onto the property ladder. That’s why we’ve agreed a housebuilding programme to increase supply.

“But it’s good for people being relieved from negative equity.

“People want to live here.

“There are jobs, unemployment is below two per cent and we’re in the heart of Essex. I think city status has helped too.”