House prices could be forced into a fresh upward trend because of a shortage of properties for sale.

A new report shows homes are selling within days of going on the market.

It reveals an average of 14 buyers are chasing every home on the market in the South-East.

Researchers for estate agent Bradford & Bingley believe more people are waiting to find their dream home before putting their own place on the market, causing a gridlock in the £250,000 to £300,000 price range.

In Sussex the shortage is most keenly felt in Burgess Hill, where houses are finding a buyer for 96 per cent of the asking price in an average of three weeks.

A Bradford & Bingley spokesman said: "If homeowners' vigilant approach to wait for the right property continues, we will eventually begin to see a gridlock."

This will continue to push prices up beyond the earlier predictions of a rise of between four and five per cent.

A spokeswoman for independent estate agent Crane & Co, of Church Road, Hove, said: "Everything we've got is going almost immediately. We could sell each property ten times."

Glen Mishon, partner in Mishon MacKay, also in Church Road, said: "The buyers are out there but property does need to be realistically priced.

"After the latter part of last year, confidence has come back."

Meanwhile, first-time buyers are being priced out of the market, sparking fears of a bust from the bottom up.

The number of buyers climbing on to the first rung of the property ladder has fallen by four per cent since November.

Even those spend an average of 10 per cent less on their first home, down to £126,047 from £139,273 three months ago.

The Bradford & Bingley spokesman said: "Should first-time buyers stay unconfident about buying, this could have dramatic effects as they provide the vigour required to keep the market buoyant and prices on the rise."