House prices fell by just under one per cent between January and February, according to the Halifax. The bank said that the average home was selling for £162,600, four thousand pounds less than a year ago.
There have been conflicting signals from the housing market so far this year: last month's fall simply reversed a rise reported by the Halifax in January.
But the Halifax and the Nationwide, which has a rival index, say the more reliable figure is the average price over the latest three months -- and that has been falling steadily on both measures since last summer.
It's a frustrating situation for first time buyers, who should benefit from lower prices but can't get a mortgage. And in contrast to house prices, the rents they are being asked to pay have been rising sharply.
The Halifax says the fact that fewer homes are being put up for sale will help to prevent a more significant fall in house prices.
It quotes new listings in January from the surveyors' group, RICS, to back this argument. But a different survey, from Hometrack, suggests listings bounced back in February.
Another factor hanging over the housing market is the expected squeeze on household budgets this year from rising prices and job cuts.
Add in the warning from banks and building societies that there won't be any increase in mortgage lending this year and you see why many forecasters are expecting the slide in prices to continue.