Buy-to-let investors are said to be "storming the housing market" as estate agents report an increase in the numbers trying to push sales through before Friday’s stamp duty deadline.
The influx drove demand for property to a 12-year high in February, while sales to first time buyers dropped 5% as a result.
Some 85% of estate agents reported an increase in the number of buy-to-let investors, according to the latest housing market report from the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA).
As demand soared there were on average 463 houses hunters registered per member branch, the highest since August 2004 when 582 were registered.
The number of properties available per branch increased marginally from 33 in January to 35 in February.
There were an average nine sales agreed per branch completed in February, up from eight in January.
Just 24% of total sales were to first-time buyers in February, as mounting pressure from investors increased competition.
NAEA managing director Mark Hayward said: “It is evident from February’s report findings that we’ve seen a real sense of urgency from landlords trying to complete on sales ahead of the stamp duty reforms – which now come into force next week.
“However, the mounting pressure and increased demand for housing has meant that first-time buyers have had to compete with landlords for property and as a result they have lost out."
Hayward said that schemes aimed at supporting first-time buyers, such as the Help to Buy and the new Lifetime Isa sound great on paper but shortage of supply will continue to make life difficult for them.