Skipton Building Society, the UK’s fifth-biggest mutual, said there was increasing evidence the housing market was starting to stabilise as it reported house sales jumped 23% in the first six months of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

David Cutter, chief executive of the mutual that owns the Connells estate agency, said: “We’ve got some evidence that house prices have stabilised and therefore we are cautiously optimistic that we are near the bottom.”

Skipton said that profits in the six months to June 30 more than halved from £43.1m to £17m as bad debts jumped to £22.1m against £7.9m last time.

Financial Times, The Times