According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a chronic shortage of properties coming up for sale is the main factor in driving property prices higher recently.

According to the National Association of Estate Agents, too, what sells a house in this market seems, ironically, to be the lack of housing stock. There are around eight buyers chasing every property apparently, meaning it could result in many buyers being priced out.

Online estate agents know very well what sells a house in this market and will use savvy online marketing techniques to ensure that they obtain the best price for their sellers, even though it doesn’t seem properties are sticking around that long.

The northwest has been the surprise winner, seeing the biggest jump in value for both urban and rural homes in the past year. The average asking price in northwest towns and cities is now £199,470, 9.4% higher than a year ago; for country homes, the rise is 17.5% to a typical £365,130.

The average asking price for properties in towns and cities across England has risen by 12.9% in the past 12 months, compared with an increase of 8.3% for homes in the country. The typical price of a rural hideaway cottage is £304,620, £36,470 less than a town dwelling, which is for sale at £341,090.

According to recent figures, January saw the biggest hike in property prices since May 2007, nearly 7 years ago! Property prices across England and Wales rose by 1.5% in January. 90% of local authorities are now seeing price growth with the average property value jumping to £241,101. The repossession rate in 2013 was also lower than at any time since 2007 and the Governor of the Bank of England recognised early signs of a recovery, increasing his forecast for growth this year from 2.8% to 3.4% so the economic news seems to back up such optimism.

Growth in rural areas has been driven by buyers seeking out more affordable prices this Spring. The time taken to sell a property has also fallen to its lowest level since 2007 with the average time from advertising a home for sale to accepting an offer now less than 8.5 weeks, a fortnight lower than in the same period of 2012.

Households are saving less and spending more, apparently. Yet there are warnings that the recovery is neither balanced nor sustainable. This patchy picture is repeated in the house market. Even though the countryside is starting to see signs of life, there is a gulf separating the performance of homes there from that of their urban counterparts so the answer to the question, ‘what sells a house in this market’, seems to vary depending on geographical location.

When it comes to the property itself, regardless of location, there are some standard things that help when it comes to what sells a house in this market. First impressions count. Tidy up outside, complete all those half-finished DIY jobs, tidy the garden, get rid of unwanted pet smells, clean carpets, deodorise and generally repaint to neutral colours internally.