FIRST TIME BUYERS should look beyond the city and invest in one of the many small towns in County Durham if they want to get on the property ladder, according to a North East property expert.

Housebuilder Maple Oak Homes found that a new build property in the city was more than double the price of an equivalent just five miles away.

A four-bedroom detached house at a development close to Durham’s university quarter was on the market for £444,995 – compared to £219,950 at The Acorns, in Spennymoor.

Grace Mackay, marketing executive at Maple Oak Homes, said: “We know that city centre living comes at a premium – but it’s still a surprise to see such a dramatic price difference in two comparable properties so close together.

“Schemes like Help to Buy offer some assistance – but when faced with such high property prices saving for a deposit is still a challenge.”

The Government-backed Help to Buy scheme allows first time buyers to purchase a new build home with a five per cent deposit, with a 20 per cent equity loan making up the shortfall.

However buyers still need to come up with £22,250 to purchase the Durham home under the scheme, compared to just £11,000 in Spennymoor.

Fraser Kirkley is one first-time buyer who decided to move to Spennymoor when he couldn’t find an affordable property in Durham.

The 25-year-old was keen to stay in the area after graduating from Durham University but struggled to find a home to suit his budget in the city.

The financial adviser explained: “I visited other builders in the area but as far as value for money and quality of homes the Acorns stood head and shoulders above the rest.

“I love being so close to Durham without the city centre price tag!”

In fact, Fraser was so impressed he recommended the development to best friend and colleague Tristan Burd, 25.

He said: “I was also looking to get on the housing ladder and after Fraser had such a positive experience I decided it made sense to move to The Acorns too.

“We’re close to the A1 and it’s easy to get to Durham and Newcastle so I don’t feel like I’m missing out by living outside the city boundaries.”

Grace added: “With strong transport links into the city, people who live and work in Durham should seriously consider widening their search to save money.”

Prospective buyers can now view a virtual tour of a show home at The Acorns at www.the-acorns.com.