UK house sales rose to their highest level for more than three years in the three months to the end of May, according to surveyors.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said its members each recorded 17.9 property sales over the period on average.

This remained well below the peak of the market, but provided further indication that there was some momentum in the housing market.

Sales are expected to continue to rise.

Some 35% more surveyors predicted that they would see more sales over the next three months that the proportion who expected sales to fall, up from 26%. It was the highest reading since May 2009.

"There is still a very long way to go until we see a full scale recovery, but green shoots are beginning to sprout," said Peter Bolton King, global residential director at Rics.

Surveyors in all areas expected prices to rise in the year, which would be good for sellers but bad news for first-time buyers trying to get onto the ladder.

The survey comes after the Nationwide Building Society claimed the housing market was "gradually gaining momentum", as it reported a 1.1% annual growth in prices in the year to the end of May.

It said this was partly owing to government schemes aimed at stimulating the market.

However, the mooted pick-up remains a relatively recent development. New figures from the Bank of England showed that the mortgage market changed little in the first three months of the year compared with the first quarter of 2012.

It reported a 4.3% reduction in the value of new mortgage commitments to £35.5bn.