Inquiries by would-be homebuyers at estate agents are increasingly translating into purchases, according to figures published today, in a further sign that the housing market is improving.

Newly agreed sales are rising more widely across the market than at any point since data were first collected in 1999, the RICS reported in its monthly survey of housing. Buyer inquiries have been rising for the past eight months, and RICS said the latest data reflected interest in buying homes beginning to channel through to more sales. More estate agents expect house prices to rise than fall for the first time since May 2007, providing further evidence that the worst of the housing crash may be over.

However, a recent flattening off of house prices is being supported by the lack of supply as sellers hold back from putting their homes on the markets in the midst of a slump. Moreover, analysts say the weakness in bank lending to homebuyers is likely to restrain house prices, while unemployment will serve as a further drag on recovery.

Financial Times, The Times