HOUSING sales are at their highest for six years as buyers' confidence returns to the market, a report has claimed.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) says the average number of homes sold per chartered surveyor increased at its largest rate since February 2008 in the first three months of 2014.

It said for the three months to March there were an average 22.7 home sales, with the North-East seeing 19 sales per surveyor.

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The North-East also saw a net balance of 40 per cent of surveyors reporting new buyer enquiries.

However, it said the market continues to be hampered by a lack of homes for sale.

New instructions from vendors continued to fall in March, with the North-East seeing a net balance of seven per cent of surveyors reporting new stock, down from 21 per cent on the previous month.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: “Now that the housing market recovery is well and truly underway and mortgage finance is more readily available, buyers seem to be looking to test the market right across the country.

“That said, it is a major concern that we are not seeing enough houses coming onto the market.

“For the market to operate effectively, we desperately need more homes in areas where people want to buy and want to live.

“Until this happens we’re likely to see prices to continue to increase and it is going to be ever harder for many first time buyers to conceive of ever owning their own home.”