The housing market has started the year on the back foot with prices edging 0.1% lower during January, new figures have shown.
It was the fifth time in seven months that property values had fallen, leaving the typical home costing £161,602 – 1.1% less than in January 2010, according to Nationwide.
The group warned that the outlook for the housing market was “highly uncertain”, and the current pattern of low transaction levels, with prices moving sideways or modestly lower, was likely to continue during 2011.
Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said: “January’s data does little to alter the picture of a sluggish market that has been evident since the summer.
“Indeed, the three-month-on-three-month measure of house prices, which is a better measure of the underlying trend, showed a fall of 0.5%, consistent with the gradual moderation in prices that has been in place since the summer of 2010.”
The group said demand for homes appeared to have stabilised, although it was running at much lower levels than those seen before the credit crunch struck.
At the same time, there were few signs of a glut of unsold properties building up on the market, which would lead to sharp house price falls, with some evidence suggesting that the number of homes being put up for sale was actually slowing.
But Nationwide warned that the continued uncertain economic outlook was likely to keep many potential buyers on the sidelines. Recent figures showing that inflation was higher than expected in December are also likely to hit buyers’ confidence, as the data prompted speculation that interest rates may have to rise sooner than previously expected.
Meanwhile, the ongoing problems in the mortgage market, mean that those without large deposits and good credit records are struggling to raise the finance they need to buy a home or move up the property ladder.
The figures are the latest in a run of gloomy data on the property market, with the British Bankers’ Association last week saying that net mortgage lending by the major banks had dived to an 11-and-a-half-year low, while the number of mortgages approved for house purchase fell to a near two-year low.