Those with the least and those with the most are injecting life into the West Midlands housing market.

At the top end of the market members of the Home Counties set are switching to leafy areas of the West Midlands to buy their #1.5 million-plus estates.

First-time buyers are back showing an interest following recent Budget changes which saw extra incentives for shared ownership.

But between the two extremes the homes sector is simply ticking over in line with the usual spring upturn, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' latest survey.

With 57 per cent of char-tered surveyors in the region reporting no change in prices

during the three months to March, signs are that the West Midlands' market and prices are holding firm, it said. Those reporting an increase in prices dropped slightly to 22 per cent, down from 25 per cent in February. The number of chartered surveyors reporting a fall in prices also decreased, down from 26 per cent to 22 per cent.

Harvey Williams, RICS West Midlands spokesman, said prices generally were still "very stable" but activity had risen.

"Since the Budget, enquires from first-time buyers - the lifeblood of the housing market - have been on the up across the West Midlands.

"In particular, developers have seen increased interest in part and shared ownership schemes. With sales to first time buyers still under 25 per cent of all completions, affordability is still the issue of the day within the region's housing market."

However, that is helping rejuvenate the city living phenomena which has now recovered from a dip some 18 months back.

He said: "Rental figures for Birmingham city centre are once again on the up as young professionals looking for the city living lifestyle opt to rent rather than buy. With prices often well over #100,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, renting may be the only option for these city dwellers."

No such worries for those with pots of money.

Mr Williams said: "At the top end of the regional housing market we are seeing a significant revival as buyers show renewed confidence in investing in property. The region's leafy districts are not only picturesque places to live, but offer buyers much better value for money than the expensive south-east commuter belt and Home Counties."

They could then either commute to London or "take a pad there during the week".

Nationally, prices have risen for the fifth consecutive month and more people are enquiring about purchases for a record-breaking tenth month in a row.

Prices are continuing to grow but at a slower rate with 16 per cent more chartered surveyor estate agents reporting a rise in prices than a fall, compared to 13 per cent last month. Agents are positive about a strong post-Easter rally, with price expectations at their highest since April 2004.