Signs that the housing market is "over the very worst" of its difficulties and is set for a spring pick-up have been reported by surveyors.
House sales across the UK look set to increase in the coming months, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said, as it released its housing market survey for December.
A balance of 24% more surveyors across the country predicted that transactions will increase rather than decrease over the next three months.
Prices held steady in December, and a net balance of 12% surveyors reported increases in new buyer inquiries rather than falls. RICS said that its findings add weight to its previous forecasts that prices will rise by 2% during 2013 and provides evidence that the market has started to "bottom out".
Across the UK, London, which has had strong demand from overseas buyers, continued to buck the general trend by recording relatively strong price growth, while Wales and the North East saw the biggest declines.
RICS said that significantly, prices in the West Midlands stabilised last month, representing the first time in more than two-and-a-half years that prices there have not fallen.
The number of mortgage approvals to home buyers has been climbing in recent months, in signs that a multibillion-pound Government scheme to kick-start lending is having an impact on the housing market.
The Funding for Lending scheme, which gives lenders access to cheap finance, was launched in August and since then there has been a sharp increase in the number of mortgages on the market.
Peter Bolton King, RICS global residential director, said: "As we start the new year, confidence in the housing market does appear to be improving, helped in part by the impact of the Funding for Lending scheme.
"Indeed, our members are predicting that transaction levels will continue increasing in many parts of the country and it may be that we are now over the very worst. That said, more still needs to be done to ensure potential buyers can access the market at every level."