Housing market activity is gathering pace as would-be buyers look to grab a winter deal amid an improved mood of confidence, surveyors have said.
But despite an expected pick-up in sales in the coming months, prices are likely to remain flat, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said in its housing market survey for November.
A balance of 9% more surveyors reported price falls rather than rises on a monthly basis, which is slightly up on October but suggests that the market is fairly stable, Rics said.
Continuing a long-running trend, London, which has seen strong demand from overseas buyers, was the only area to see prices increase, with 40% of surveyors reporting rises rather than falls.
Northern Ireland and Wales saw the worst price drops, with net balances of 49% and 36% of surveyors reporting falls rather than rises respectively.
Inquiries from potential buyers have been steadily growing across the country since the end of the summer, with a balance of 11% more surveyors reporting increased levels of interest rather than falls.
Rics said that although demand from would-be buyers is still at low levels by historic standards, people who are in a position to buy a house are gradually coming forward to test the market. A net balance of 14% of surveyors expect house sales to increase rather than decrease in the next three months, although prices are expected to remain "flatter by way of contrast", Rics added.
Peter Bolton King, Rics global residential director, said: "There is certainly some optimism creeping back into the housing market, and it is encouraging to see an increase in potential buyers across parts of the country where the market has particularly suffered in recent years. That said, there is still a long way to go and the long-standing barriers to home ownership are still very much a problem for the likes of first-time buyers."
The signs of increased market activity chime with recent figures released by the Bank of England which showed that mortgage approvals for house purchase reached their highest number since the start of the year in October.
A multibillion-pound Government Funding for Lending scheme to boost the flow of cash to households and firms was launched at the start of August, which has sparked a mortgage price war among lenders, although much of this has been aimed at borrowers with bigger deposits. The number of mortgages on the market has increased by around a fifth since the scheme started, comparison website MoneySupermarket recently found.