Prices fall again as demand and confidence wane in the housing market

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The Independent Online

House prices have dropped for six months in a row, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) – the most prolonged fall since its records began in 1978.

Rics said the proportion of its members reporting rising prices last month had fallen to a negative balance of minus 54.7 per cent – against minus 49.1 per cent in December.

Its survey also found that the decline in demand has become more pronounced, with new buyer enquiries falling at the fastest rate since October.

"A lack of demand and confidence in the housing market is behind the recent price slowdown," said Rics spokesman Jeremy Leaf. "Tightening mortgage lending criteria are blocking many who are keen to take the plunge.

"Our members are finding it hard to market properties to an audience that has decided to watch the current economic theatre from the wings."

The stock of unsold property on surveyors' books jumped by more than 10 per cent over the previous month. Surveyors currently have an average of 85 unsold homes – the highest level since February 1999.

Meanwhile, home ownership is at its lowest level in a decade, according to government figures. Some 14.5 million of us owned property last year, a drop of 83,000 in 12 months.