Almost one in ten Epping Forest homes are valued at £1 million or more as first time buyers are squeezed out of the market.

The district has the third highest concentrations of homes valued £1 million or more in the East of England; 4,532 homes are valued at £1 million or more – eight per cent of its entire housing stock.

According to research by estate agents Savills, local authorities in Hertfordshire make up the region’s top three – with 7,420 in St Albans (12.2 per cent of the overall housing stock), 3,857 in Three Rivers (10.2 per cent) and 3,703 in Hertsmere (8.4 per cent).

After Epping Forest, Brentwood is next on the list with 2,357 homes worth £1m or more (7.1 per cent).

The market share of first-time buyer sales reached its lowest level nationally since 2016 last year, accounting for 31 per cent of sales, down from 35 per cent in 2018, according to property giants Zoopla.

However, evidence suggests first-time buyers are returning to the market, with a 5 per cent rise in demand from first-time buyers in the first six weeks of the year compared to the same period in 2020.

James Lamb, who leads the residential team at Savills Loughton, said: “Despite lockdown and recession, 2020’s surprisingly strong housing market saw more homes cross the £1 million value threshold.

“Here in West Essex – with Loughton and surrounding villages no exception – behavioural and lifestyle changes have shaped the pattern of growth in the prime markets, with greater price growth as buyers and sellers look for more space both inside and out but still within close proximity to London.”

The greatest concentration of £1 million + homes can be found in London – 54.5 per cent. In total Essex has 12,455 homes – around 1.8 per cent of the overall stock.

James continued: “If anything the most recent restrictions only seem to have reaffirmed people’s desire to move if their current home no longer meets their needs. Demand for virtual viewings has been high for example – allowing people to do their homework and get ahead for the spring market – and website enquiries are up 132 per cent on this time last year.

“The end of the stamp duty on March 31 is also creating some degree of urgency as buyers try to complete sales ahead of that date – particularly in the middle part of the market where upsizers have the most to gain.”

Lockdown continues to stimulate demand from older, more established homeowners, who have boosted cash purchases to 30 per cent of all sales, reaching a ten year high.

Gráinne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, said: “The strong bounce in demand seen at the start of the year has been further boosted by increased numbers of first-time buyers active in the market. Many of these buyers will be taking advantage of the increased number of home loans now available for purchasers with smaller deposits, and most will be less concerned about the ending of the stamp duty holiday on March 31.”

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