The latest figures from Nationwide show a rise in prices for the third month on the trot, which puts the price of an average house at 1.3% more than at the start of the year.

This sign of buoyancy is not isolated, we are seeing various indexes pointing to an uplift in prices and various other data pointing to more stability in the housing market generally.

But there remains a huge amount of caution. History can only provide vague ideas of what might happen from here, simply because never before has the global economy had such an adrenalin kick as it has enjoyed over the past year or so.

So any sensible economist would apply plenty of caution to and heap caveats on any comments regarding a recovery.

But that will not stop them postulating and pondering the possible prospects.

With the release of today's figures, Martin Gahbauer, Nationwide's Chief Economist, said: "For the first seven months of 2009 as a whole, prices have risen by a cumulative 1.3%, suggesting there is now a reasonable chance that prices could end the year slightly higher than where they started. Only a few months ago, such an outcome would have appeared unthinkable."

The comment raises a couple of questions, the first being: was it, a few months ago, for sould reasons that it seemed unthinkable that house prices might rise in 2009?

The second question to ask is what has changed over the past few months to make what seemed unthinkable then seem thinkable now?

If there is one thing I have learned in life is that getting the timing right by applying what passes as logic is a thankless and near fruitless task. Things normally take longer to happen and then happen swifter than you expect, having waited with decreasing patience for them to occur.

The brick on an elastic band metaphor comes to mind. You pull and pull and nothing happens. Then. The next thing you know you have a sore head because you lost concentration and missed it coming.

Maybe I'm just unlucky. Maybe I should heed my parents advice and not play with bricks and elastic bands.

Anyway, by way of an answer to the first question. The economics of the day were scary. They remain scary. So the idea that house prices may yet fall further seems a reasonable and prudent position to take, even if it does prove incorrect.

Turning to the second question regarding what has changed, well house price falls have eased. This breeds confidence. Whether the confidence turns out to be well founded or not is of little consequence in terms of its effect.

More people are buying homes and looking to buy homes.

The flip side of this confidence is that those who would otherwise have sold their homes are choosing to hang on to them in the hope of getting a better price later.

This is not a view I hold alone, it has been put by many. Indeed Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said today in relation to the Nationwide figures: "RICS believes that the recent support for prices is to a large extent a sign of a lack of supply of properties. Whether they may be described as reluctant landlords or investors, many homeowners wanting to move are hanging on to their existing homes in the knowledge that servicing costs are low and can be covered by rental income even in an environment in which yields are slipping. This could remain an important crutch for the market in the near term."

This phenomenon, which is supported by relatively low interest rates, causes a shortage, which in turn supports market prices, which in turn boosts confidence and so on.

A virtuous circle, it would seem. That is until there is a further shock to or squeeze on the economy, if one should happen to occur - let's just speculate wildly and say a sharp rise in unemployment or a massive squeeze on public spending.

Then the spring might well unwind with a ping.

The real question we have to ask ourselves is: do we feel lucky?