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AMSTERDAM, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Dutch home sales rose at the fastest pace since mid-2008 in the final quarter of 2013, lifting hopes the country's housing market has bottomed out, the leading association of mortgage brokers said on Thursday.
Home prices have tumbled an average 18 percent since the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, dragging down consumer spending and the wider Dutch economy, among the weakest in the European Union.
The modest signs of a recovery in the Netherlands follow more robust house price increases in Ireland, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom, where some experts fear there may even be signs of market overheating.
Members of the Netherlands Association of Mortgage Brokers (NVM) reported a 20 percent increase in home sales in the last quarter of 2013, compared to the third quarter, and a rise of 7.7 percent year-on-year.
The average sale price for a Dutch home rose 1.5 percent on quarter and was down 1.1 percent compared to the same quarter a year earlier, the NVM said.
"There were virtually no new price declines in the past two quarters," said NVM chairman Ger Hukker. "Prices are bottoming out."
While the latest figures are positive, it will only become clear by mid-2014 if there is a genuine turnaround is underway in the Netherlands, the association cautioned.
"Only then will we be able to say whether the housing market has stabilised, particularly home sale prices," said Hukker.
Political instability or further economic setbacks, such as an unexpected rise in unemployment, could easily hurt the latest positive development, the NVM said. (Reporting By Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Hugh Lawson)