PUNDITS are forecasting that a surreal £3 billion of the record £ 7.5 billion paid out in city bonuses this year is likely to be invested in the property market.

Three thousand bankers working in the square mile are expected to receive handouts of a million or more.

Based on the figures produced by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, a group of 200 professionals in the property business exhibiting at next month's Homebuyer Show at London's ExCel have calculated that the average bonus is likely to be £23,000. And when all the dosh has been handed out, they reckon the amount that could find its way into the house market in the coming weeks and months could buy up the equivalent to 200,000 average priced homes.

The predictions have brought smiles of eager anticipation to the faces of West London estate agents but they're not counting on cruising off to a golden retirement, not yet.

The January survey by the residential property research and database company Hometrack published on Monday showed that prices in Ealing inched up by a modest 0.2 per cent in the first four weeks of the year, a move in the right direction if you're selling.

Monica Miller, branch partner at the Ealing branch of Barnard Marcus reported on Tuesday: "There's a strong demand for two bedroom garden flats and houses in the £450,000 to £500,000 range. The shortage of supply is pushing up prices a little."

She is currently looking for a buyer for a stunning three bedroom flat with the same scale of accommodation you'd expect in a house. As the agent says, the W5 apartment in Fordhook Avenue close to North Common Tube would be ideal for a banker or "any young professional looking for the wow factor when they walk through the door." With its double height drawing room, glass fronted mezzanine floor created from the loft space and high spec contemporary fittings it's on the books at Barnard Marcus for £425,000.

Meanwhile Derek Grimshaw opposite Ealing Common Station always has a wide selection of up market properties. Currently he is looking for a buyer for North Common Lodge, one of two three storey houses in a gated development at Hanger Lane. The one for sale for £999,950 has five/six bedrooms including a master suite with dressing room, four bath/shower rooms three en suite Bang & Olufsen sound system, three reception rooms including one with a balcony, open plan kitchen and 80ft south and west facing landscaped garden.

For slightly more change out of a million, Grimshaw has been instructed to sell a detached five bedroom house in the W5 Brentham Garden Estate conservation area. At £945,000, this older style property has a room in the roof with Velux window, parquet floor through the ground floor, fitted kitchen with gas hob and three ovens, microwave, dishwasher and washing machine and south facing garden.

Knight Frank's head of residential research Liam Bailey says the property market started to benefit from the widely expected bumper bonuses at the end of last year.

Viewings in the last quarter were almost 70 per cent above the same three months in 2004 as buyers jumped the gun to avoid competition from the city boys and girls after Christmas.

Bailey says the target locations for city purchasers are "just about everywhere but especially west of the capital."

Knight Frank's Hampstead office is currently waiting for a buyer with £32 million to snap up the largest house in London, second only to Buckingham Palace. Witanhurst on Highgate West Hill has 25 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, gym, sauna and 40,000 sq ft of entertaining space. It was built in 1913 probably for a wealthy merchant from the city.

But the London office of Savills has warned buyers and sellers not to get carried away.

"Strong city results and forecasts definitely influence the top end of the market and create confidence but there's sometimes a temptation to overhype the impact of this which can lead to false expectations," cautions the agent. "Fundamentally the housing market is short of good stock, therefore after one-two years of uncertainty, good demand should see prices gently firming up."