According to the the latest report from the bi-annual Country Life Elite Property Index (CLEPI), which closely tracks the progress of every property advertised in the magazine ? the elite property market is building momentum after a difficult spring.

In the six months between January and June this year, CLEPI findings indicate that while certain counties have suffered in the elite market, others are enjoying a more buoyant period:

The West Country?s star performer was Dorset ? the only county in England to register an increase in the overall number of properties for sale (+ 16%).

Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire have been popular in the family market, not least because of the surrounding countryside, excellent private and state schools and commuter accessibility.

The number of Devon properties advertised in Country Life fell by 22% between January and June 2005, compared to the same period last year, BUT, the average price broke through the £1m barrier for the first time, rising from £949,000 in the first six months of 2004 to £1.1m this year.

Elsewhere, the market has been more challenging, especially in the early part of the year, with a range of circumstances ? from the hiatus generated by the general election to a less bullish attitude to global economic performance ? conspiring to slow down the elite country property market in some counties.

Through the spring months buyers seemed more cautious, and consequently fewer sellers were willing to put their properties on the market, especially those valued over £5m. But a revival in the market for family houses in London has meant that people who were looking to move to the country were at last free to do so.

Penny Churchill, COUNTRY LIFE’s property correspondent, comments: ‘According to the Office for National Statistics, more than 100,000 families move from London to the country each year with Surrey top of most would-be commuters? lists. Following improvements in the London market, country estate agents are confident of a busier market in the autumn.’

CLEPI analysis found the top five country house sales between January and June 2005 were:

· Easton Neston, Northamptonshire: £18m (Knight Frank)

· Ash Park, Hampshire: £10m (Knight Frank)

· Old Titness, Berkshire: £9m (Knight Frank/Savills/Strutt & Parker)

· Spy Park, Wiltshire: £9m (Knight Frank)

· Thimbleby Estate, Yorkshire: £7m+ (Carter Jonas)

The full article will be appearing in tomorrow’s issue of COUNTRY LIFE (September 8), or read it here: www.countrylife.co.uk/property