ESTATE agents are predicting a brighter future for the Scottish housing market after new figures showed a 26% jump in the number of houses sold during the last three months of 2013.

The rise in property transactions is the highest recorded for this particular time of year since the end of 2007, which marked the start of the UK-wide collapse in house prices.

Registers of Scotland, which produced the official statistics, said there were grounds for optimism, with belief growing among industry professionals that the slump affecting property is coming to an end.

The increase in the number of houses being sold has been accompanied by a bump in house prices in many areas, with the average home in Scotland worth 3.1% more than it was 12 months ago.

The figures show sales of all types of property rose at the end of 2013. The average price of a Scottish home is now £159,670.

Kenny Crawford, Registers of Scotland's director of commercial services, said: "The Scottish ­property market is definitely showing signs of improvement and renewed optimism, possibly partially fuelled by an influx of first-time buyers thanks to schemes such as Help To Buy.

"All property types showed an increase in average house price, the biggest being in detached properties, up 2.2%, with this type showing the biggest increase in sales volumes of 26.3%, followed by terraced properties, up 26%."

According to the statistics, East Renfrewshire is the most ­expensive place to buy in Scotland, with an average price of £222,906 - a rise of 4.8% compared to last year. Edinburgh had the highest number of sales, with 2951 properties changing hands, up 35%, followed by Glasgow with 2569, up 24.8%.

House prices fell slightly in Glasgow, with the average house price of £128,231 down 0.7% on the same time last year.

East Lothian recorded the ­highest percentage rise in price, up 14.9% to £209,566, compared to the same period last year when the average cost was £182,330.

The largest percentage drop in average house price was in Inverclyde, where values fell by 8.7% to £116,085. However, the report said this area also had the largest percentage rise in the number of sales, with activity in the property market rising by 44.2 %.

Malcolm Leslie of Strutt & Parkers Country Homes department said: "There have certainly been a few lean years for property sales but 2013 saw a big increase in all our offices, from flats to larger houses in the country as well as farms throughout Scotland.

"Judging by the incredible interest in the first month of 2014 the property industry in Scotland is looking very positive indeed."

Alasdair Mackenzie, head of residential sales at CKD Galbraith's Edinburgh office, added: "Over the last quarter we have seen an increase in business across all our offices in Scotland and we believe that this is set to continue throughout the spring months. The market is beginning to show some encouraging signs with many prospective buyers looking to gain from ­viewing even earlier than usual.

"The forecast is bright for those looking to sell in the coming months and we believe that the growth demonstrated in 2013 is set to continue throughout Scotland into the spring of 2014."

Rettie & Co's director of research, Dr John Boyle, added: "These statistics show the housing market in Scotland turned the corner over 2013. The fundamentals now also seem to be in place to ensure a full recovery, with improving economic activity levels, consumer sentiment,bank lending helping to raise the market.

"First-time buyers are now returning to the market in larger numbers, which is a major factor behind getting the market moving at all levels. The Government's stimulus of Help to Buy has also helped at the tail end of the year."