The first week of 2012 saw asking prices for property rise by 1.4%, although prices are still down 0.8% on the month, according to the latest Rightmove House Price Index.
Rightmove says this is an early indicator that a new seller shortage is likely to underpin prices this year.
Estate agents are marketing less than one new property per week per estate agency branch, the lowest ever seen, says the firm.
There were 44 million property searches on Rightmove in first 10 days of 2012, up 27% on 2011, highlighting pent-up demand held back by the ongoing mortgage famine.
Rightmove predicts that the winners in 2012 will be deposit-assisted first-time buyers, equity-blessed trader-uppers, savvy buy-to-let investors, some golden-oldies, and those selling properties ‘with a difference’.
The 2012 losers will be trapped renters and sellers of ‘average’ homes unwilling or unable to offer a cut-price deal.
Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove, commented: “Old records are being shattered as search activity is up by a staggering 27% on this time last year. Potential buyers and sellers are looking more often and researching more thoroughly.
“In areas where there is a lot of property up for sale, buyers are looking hard for properties that tempt them with something really special in terms of value, potential, location or quality of finish. If it doesn’t shout ‘special’ then they are unlikely to overpay for the privilege of buying an average property in these mortgage-constrained times.
“In locations where there is little stock for sale, they appear to have become online junkies, ready to pounce on fresh property coming to market to see if it will satisfy their housing need.
“This search-addiction is in part caused by each estate agency branches currently listing an average of less than one new property per week, an all-time low and around half of pre-credit crunch levels.
“The market is stuck in a low transaction volume pit that will be hard to escape from without the mortgage funding to satisfy what appears to be strong pent-up demand.”