The top end of the property market has staged a significant recovery since the start of the year, following six months of decline during the second half of 2004, according to new Knight Frank research.

Their quarterly Country House Index says prices at the top end of the market have increased by 1.8% since the start of 2005, following a decline of 2.5% over the previous six months.

While price growth of country houses below £2million have seen a ?considerable slow down? over the past year, the top of the prime property market is particularly buoyant, the figures show.

Properties priced upwards of £4million have seen activity and price growth outstripping the performance of every other sector of the country house market, and the £4million+ sector saw 6.6% growth in average prices compared to 2.8% for the £1 to £2million bracket.

However, price growth across the sector does remain significantly lower than in recent years, and the period of double digit price inflation is now behind us, Knight Frank said. According to the estate agent?s yearly figures, country house prices have increased by 2.7% in the past year, compared to the 22.9% rise over the twelve months to March 2000.

Rupert Sweeting, Head of Country House Sales at Knight Frank, said: ?The first quarter growth is a reflection of buyer confidence which has been partially fuelled by city bonuses returning and a recovering stock market. Looking ahead, as traditionally happens in the run up to a General Election, the market will quieten, but we anticipate that there will be more of a balance in supply and demand from mid May onwards.?