It was a day we had been waiting for. When it happened, it did not seem quite so special. The RICS housing market survey crossed the axis in April, moving from negative to positive.

The last time the headline index from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) went from negative to positive was August 2009. In the months that followed, other surveys all agreed that house prices were rising. Data from the ONS showed the UK was no longer in recession. But then again, it was all pretty clear cut. Over a six month period from March to September 2009, the index went from minus 70 to plus 20, with the index seeing pretty consistent improvement month on month over the period.

Then in July 2010, the index went negative again, this time going from plus 26 In May 2010, to plus eight in April, minus 8 in July and minus 32 in August. The index didn’t just change, it was radically changed. The UK housing market and economy followed soon afterwards.

This time around, however, it was all so subtle. In October last year the RICS index was minus 7, then it rose to minus nine, fell to minus one, then minus four, minus six, then minus one and finally in April it went positive, hitting the heady heights of plus one.

See it this way: in 2009 the index stormed past the zero mark, firmly embedding itself in positive territory. In 2010 it was the other way round. In April 2013, in contrast, the index tiptoed its way to a plus reading.

And that seems to be about right. The UK economy is surely not in recession. But it is tiptoeing its way forward, with growth running at the kind of pace a snail might find frustratingly slow.

RICS itself made much of the funding for lending scheme. And, yes, this is making a difference. But it is the kind of difference that a drop of water makes to a thirsty traveller marooned in the desert. Better than no drop, but largely reminds us of what we are not having.

© Investment & Business News 2013