Housing hotspot Solihull has seen a near ten per cent increase in prices year-on-year as the market in the West Midlands continues to stabilise, it was revealed today.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said its latest study revealed buyers had expressed some renewed interest in the market and enquiries rose slightly while agreed sales continued their slow increase.

Forty nine per cent of char-tered surveyors in the region reported no change in prices during the three months to February. Though 25 per cent said prices were on the increase, reflecting a more optimistic outlook for the local market, 26 per cent said they were falling.

The RICS said the housing market continued to stabilise during the month.

Harvey Williams, West Midlands spokesman, said: "Despite the market moving at a fairly slow pace across the region, there are a still a few hotspots around.

"One such area is Solihull, where demand continues to outstrip supply in this traditional popular town and prices have increased by almost ten per cent over the last 12 months, year-on-year."

He said the Budget next week would be watched keenly by potential home owners to see if Chancellor Gordon Brown offers any sweeteners.

Mr Williams said: "The RICS maintains that the Stamp Duty Land Tax is grossly unfair to those on lower incomes and first time buyers and is in need of urgent reform.

"Let's hope Gordon Brown looks at the current 'slab' nature of the tax and considered other alternatives."

He said that recently there had been a significant increase in first time buyers coming on to the property ladder through the shared/part ownership schemes now being widely offered by major house build-ers. Once such scheme offers potential purchasers the opportunity to buy a city centre apartment at Birmingham's Park Central development and pay only 75 per cent of the asking price, Mr Williams said.

Looking across the UK, the housing market recovery gathered pace in February, particularly in the South.

Nationally, 17 per cent more chartered surveyor estate agents reported a rise in prices than a fall, the firmest growth since June 2004.

The RICS survey comes as an online survey found the largest jump in market confidence for nine months. ..SUPL: