The property market in general is reported to be slowing down, but the country house market continues to be surprisingly buoyant, Hamptons has reported.

The estate agent has sold several top end properties in recent months, and the shortage of good quality stock is keeping prices up.

?The top end is holding up well and buyers are still paying ?top dollar? for exceptional houses,? said spokesman John Webb. ?In many cases people are making discretionary moves, not wishing to miss the chance to secure the right property, as a similar opportunity may not arise again for a number of years.?

Confidence appears to be returning to the market as a whole, Hamptons said, with prices stabilising and signs of rising demand.

Many economists have speculated that interest rates have peaked, and that they are likely to fall during 2005, which Hamptons believes will spur demand, leading them to be optimistic for the coming year.

?We have been seeing a return to levels of greater normality. I expect demand to be healthier in the early part of the year,? said London Sales Director Marc Goldberg.