PROPERTY experts said Scotland's housing market is recovering after a new report showed sales rose by almost 9%, with prices also increasing.

The Registers of Scotland (RoS) shows the number of sales in the first three months of the year were up by 8.6%, compared with the same period in 2011, as prices rose by 1.7%.

Both figures were down on those for the end of 2011, but agents said this should not be given too much weight as the market is seasonal.

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Sales of detached and semi-detached houses have seen a surge on last year, rising by 18% and 12% respectively.

West Dunbartonshire had the biggest rise in prices (27.8%) with the average price now at £119,096, while North Ayrshire saw the biggest drop (5.8%) to an average of £99,762.

Dr John Boyle, head of research at Rettie & Co, said the increase in the number of sales was encouraging.

He said: "Although the latest release of the official Scottish housing market statistics appears mixed, we believe that, overall, this is actually a good set of results for the market.

"The RoS data is not seasonally adjusted, therefore real caution should be used in assessing the market on the basis of their reported quarterly change.

"Instead, it is the indicators of annual change that are most reliable and these show a small rise in house prices, but an encouraging larger rise in the number of sales, particularly for detached and semi-detached houses. There does seem more than a whiff of recovery."

Andrew Rettie, of Strutt & Parker, claimed that the figures suggest cause for optimism for the rest of 2012.

He said: "While these figures must be viewed with caution, as they can be easily skewed, they do suggest the Scottish property market is in relatively good order and will continue, hopefully, to improve. We have had a very successful few months and are optimistic about the remainder of 2012."

Strutt & Parker found that unusually hot weather at the start of spring had brought new properties on to the market and "generated a new batch of viewers and buyers who have been waiting for fresh stock".

Mr Rettie said that vendors were also being realistic about anticipated sale prices.

He added that the firm had recorded "positive movement" on property prices, with a number of sales reaching well above the asking price.

Faisal Choudhry of Savills said: "At the beginning of last year we had very bad weather and that's one of the factors which has contributed to a rise in the number of sales in the first three months of this year.

"The weather really brought everything to a halt last year."

East Dunbartonshire saw the largest increase (28.8%) in the number of sales, compared with the Shetland Islands which experienced a drop of 27.4%.

East Renfrewshire is the dearest area to buy a house, while the Western Isles is the cheapest.