UK house sales reached their highest level in more than two and-a-half years last month as confidence continued to return to the market, surveyors have said.
The sales jump helped to send expectations that house prices are set to increase in the next year, soaring to a three-year high, found the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Surveyors sold an average of just under 17 homes in the three months to February, marking the highest volume of sales recorded since June 2010.
The sales uplift is predicted to continue into spring, with a balance of 8% more surveyors expecting transactions to increase rather than fall back over the next three months.
Prices remained broadly flat, with 6% more surveyors saying that prices had dipped rather than increased, continuing a trend seen since last autumn. However, in the longer term, there is a "growing suspicion" that house prices are set to edge upwards, RICS reported.
Surveyors' expectations for house prices in the next 12 months increased to the highest level since they started being monitored in February 2010.
The number of mortgages on the market has increased by around a third since the Government launched a Funding for Lending scheme last August to unblock the housing market. Lenders have also been slashing their rates to some of their lowest-ever levels following the introduction of the initiative, which gives lenders access to cheap finance.
RICS said its latest findings showed that the scheme may be "slowly encouraging would-be buyers to test the market" as demand remained steady across the country. A balance of 1% more surveyors reported rises in the number of homes coming onto the market, although the number of properties available for sale remains at "historically low levels".
Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: "It's encouraging to see that the housing market now appears to be picking up across most parts of the UK despite ongoing concerns about the health of the economy.
"This may, in part, be down to the growing availability of mortgage finance through schemes such as Funding for Lending. However, even with activity running at its best level since the middle of 2010, it is still well down on its pre-crisis norm."