ESTATE agents have hailed a revival of the housing market after positive sales figures last month.

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The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said there had been a 13% hike in the number of surveyors reporting an increase in newly agreed sales in January in the East of England.

Graham Buxton, a partner at Fenn Wright in Colchester, said there was confidence for a good year of trading but warned against expecting a “dramatic” improvement.

He said: “There has been pent-up demand in a static market for the last two or three years and building societies and banks are beginning to free-up money for first-time buyers coming through now. People are also coming out of the rental market because they don’t want to be left behind. So we have seen an increase in sales since the beginning of the year and there is a general feeling of confidence for 2013 – but it could just be a gentle increase, and not a dramatic one.”

Ollie Peacock, partner at Jackson-Stops & Staff estate agents in Bury St Edmunds, said they experienced a rise in sales year-on-year for the last quarter of 2012.

“The industry shrunk by half in the recession so it is really encouraging to see those increase of sales,” he said. “The number of transactions has fallen sharply since the peak of the market in 2007, from 1.6million to 800,000 -900,000. People have adapted to what economists have called a ‘new normal’. People have adapted their expectations of house prices.”

House sales in the UK rose by five percent in 2012, rising to 932,000 – up from 885,000 the previous year, and the highest since 2007.

Carl Eastwood, partner at Strutt & Parker in Ipswich, said: “Banks are still very strict on lending and it is not easy for people to borrow money, so we must not get carried away just yet. The average age of first-time buyers getting on the property ladder is now 30-40.”

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