HOUSE prices in Scotland's ­largest city have increased at their fastest rate in seven years as a leading estate agent predicts average prices in the west central region will grow by 4% this year.

The latest quarterly report by Solicitors Property Centre (SPC) Scotland found that Glasgow city, Fife and Perthshire had experienced above average increases in prices at the start of 2014.

Prices across Scotland were up by 5.3% between January and March compared to the first quarter of 2013, taking the value of a typical property to £178,339.

However, the regional breakdown showed a year-on-year increase in Glasgow of 7.4%, offsetting a previous 5% nosedive in prices between 2012 and 2013 to take the average house price in the city to £120,442.

It is the sharpest annual increase for the city since 2007, the year before the credit crunch which saw prices start to tumble.

Gwilym Pryce, professor of urban studies at Glasgow ­University, said: "Looking at the raw data, it seems that much of the recovery has come from a rebound in the selling price of flats that experienced the largest drop in value since the peak in 2007/08.

"It is, of course, too early to pronounce a housing market recovery based on a single quarter, particularly since we have already had several false starts.

"But it seems likely that the sustained fall in selling times, together with a shortage of new properties coming on to the market, will continue to put upward pressure on selling prices, at least in the near future."

Gary Thomson, managing director of Clyde property, said a 7.4% year-on-year increase "seemed ambitious" but agreed that the market was heating up, with sales up 30% compared to a year ago and increasing competition for properties.

In particular, he said buyers during the last six months were tending to make offers much closer to the Home Report valuations and, in some popular areas, exceeding them. Previously, buyers were routinely making offers up to 10% below the Home Report valuations.

He said it was a "realistic prediction" that property prices in west central Scotland would rise by 3-4% this year, with surveyors likely to begin increasing their Home Report valuations in the second half of 2014.

Mr Thomson added: "Demand is far outstripping supply in a lot of areas and that is just common sense — places like Bearsden and Milngavie, the west end of Glasgow, Stirling, Shawlands. I've got more people on my mailing list looking to buy than there are houses for sale, and that is creating heightened demand.

"If you take Clarkston for instance, it's very popular because of the school rankings there. From January to now, 58% of all my sales in Clarkston have gone to a closing date with ­numerous offers.

"The market is starting to improve. If 2008 was the year that we realised the market was going back the way, 2014 will be the year that people remember the market improved."

Mr Thomson said three-bedroom homes were particularly sought after, with properties in the £175,000-£450,000 price bracket experiencing the most activity as homeowners upgrade.

In Fife, average house prices are up 10.2% year-on-year to £151,469 according to the SPC Scotland report, while in Perthshire prices are up 10.3% to £167,207.