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House prices rise 1.9%, reveals Halifax

House prices increased 1.9% in January to £163,966, according to the Halifax House Price Index.

This is a 17.2% annual decline, reveals the index, published today.

Martin Ellis (pictured), Halifax economist, says: "Prices in the three months to January compared to the preceding three months, which provides a better indicator of the underlying trend, were 5.1% lower.

"Historically, house prices have not moved in the same direction month after month even during a pronounced downturn."

He adds: "There are some very early signs that market activity may be stabilising, albeit at quite a low level. Nonetheless, continuing pressures on incomes, rising unemployment and the negative impact of the dislocation of the financial markets on the availability of mortgage finance are expected to mean that 2009 will be a difficult year for the housing market."

Luke Bennett, director of South West London-based estate agency SW19, says: "When we came back [after New Year] registrations were dramatically up. We've been selling properties hand over fist and all properties priced right are shifting.

"A couple of properties in the last week have had people fighting over [them] again. We're not saying that the market is going out of control, but what we are seeing is strong activity and offers coming back on - and not at silly prices."

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