House prices 'down 0.8% last month'

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The Independent Online

House prices fell for the fifth time in six months during February as activity in the property market remained subdued, figures showed today.

The average cost of a home in England and Wales dropped by 0.8% to £162,215 during the month, to stand 1.7% lower than in February 2010, according to the Land Registry.



It was the ninth consecutive month during which the annual rate of house price inflation has fallen, and the second month in a row during which it was negative, while the drop was the largest since October 2009.



The number of homes changing hands also fell to a seven-month low in December, the latest month for which figures are available, with 54,812 transactions taking place - 30% below the level for February last year, although the decline may in part reflect the severe winter weather during the month.



The data is the latest in a run of gloomy figures on the property market, with Halifax recently reporting that house prices had fallen at their fastest annual rate for 16 months during February, while the number of mortgages being approved for house purchase remain well down on the levels that are consistent with a stable market.



Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "The fact that house prices dropped for the fifth month in six in February, and by 0.8% month on month, is fully consistent with our view that house prices will continue to trend down in 2011 after losing ground overall in the latter months of 2010.



"We believe housing market activity and house prices will remain under pressure for some time to come from high and likely to rise unemployment, negative real income growth, the increasing fiscal squeeze, very low consumer confidence, and ongoing difficulties in getting a mortgage for many buyers."



Annual house price growth is now negative in all regions of England and Wales, apart from London and the East, where property values rose by 3.2% and 1% respectively during the year to the end of February.



The North East saw the biggest year-on-year slide at 7.1%, with average house prices falling below the low reached in 2009. It was followed by the West Midlands at 5.4% and Yorkshire and the Humber at 4%.



The East and North West were the only regions in which prices did not fall during February itself, with the East seeing a 1.2% jump.



By contrast, the average cost of a home dived by 4% in the North East during the month, while prices in the West Midlands slid by 2.7%.

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