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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 March 2006, 23:54 GMT
Housing market 'gathering pace'
For Sale signs
Rics says the housing market appears to be improving
The housing market recovery gathered pace in February, according to the latest survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

It found that 17% more of its estate agent members in England and Wales saw house prices rise last month, compared to those that reported a fall.

This was the biggest positive balance Rics has seen since June 2004.

It added that the improvement was centred on London, where 49% more agents reported price rises.

This was the largest increase in London for three and a half years.

The latest Rics findings come a month after the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said house prices rose by 4.3% in the year to January.

'Starting gun'

"Traditionally, where London goes the rest of the market follows and agents will be hoping this is the starting gun on wider, firmer housing market growth as buyers begin to compete more aggressively for the homes they want," said Rics spokesman James Scott-Lee.

"Overall, the national picture shows a pick up in family two and three bedroom houses."

Rics added that despite fading hopes of a fall in UK interest rates in the foreseeable future, there was also an increase in new house purchase enquiries.

It said that a 4% decline in properties for sale compared to a year ago was creating a new sense of urgency to the demand side of the market, with buyers keen to progress with deals to avoid disappointment.

Across the UK, Rics found moderate price rises in the South East and South West, small falls in the Midlands, and muted growth in other regions.

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