HOUSES in West Craven are being snapped up as soon as they hit the market, but local residents claim people from outside the town are getting offers in first.

Estate agents confirmed there was a property boom in Barnoldswick and Earby, but denied priority was being given to people from outside the area.

However, local residents say they are finding it almost impossible to get onto the property ladder, with some houses being sold within two hours of going onto the market.

One woman, who asked not to be named as she feared being blacklisted by estate agents, said: "My daughter and her boyfriend have been looking for a house since last October and it is really difficult at the moment. They just can't get onto the property ladder.

"I was in one estate agent's and one member of staff was telling me about a property that had come onto the market while another member of staff was going through a list of people from outside the area and ringing them up about it.

"We only have to look at the people that are buying the properties. They are from out of town and are buying them as second homes. Local people just can't get them.

"The estate agents just tell us to go onto the websites, but they don't update them often enough.

"I know one lady who went to a house at 9 'o clock in the morning and just sat on the doorstep and said she would take it without looking at it."

But a spokesman from Patricia Thomas Agencies in Barnoldswick said: "I think it is a fallacy myself. It is like everything else, it is supply and demand.

"There is no reason whatsoever for an estate agent to differentiate between local people and non-local people. It is probably easier for people who are local to hear of the houses first by walking into the estate agents."

Janet Myers, sales manager at the town's Sally Harrison Estate Agents, added: "We are short of cheaper houses for first time buyers - they are getting snapped up straight away.

"We had someone in yesterday because we just got a cottage on the market for around £30,000, which is unbelievably cheap, but it was a very tiny property. He said he didn't want to see it and just offered the cash for it straight away, but we will not accept offers if someone has not seen the property. But that is how desperate people are.

"Many people are buying properties for investment because house prices are still rising and they would rather buy a property than have the money stuck in the bank."

Estate agents have mailing lists and internet sites for people to look at, but Mrs Myers added: "Someone could walk in and look at the property and then put an offer in within half an hour so we might not even get chance to put it on our mailing list. It is a very frustrating market.

"My personal opinion is that I would rather sell a property to a first time buyer because an investor can wait for another property.

"At the end of the day what people don't seem to understand is that it is not up to us to make the decision, it is the owners who are selling the property."

People from out of the area are choosing to move to West Craven because properties are cheaper. Even so, houses that a few years ago were worth £50,000 to £60,000 are now worth £90,000 to £100,000 and are still rising.