Agents have suggested that the latest price figures from the Halifax may be masking increased activity in the market in recent weeks.
The Halifax says house prices fell by 2.9 per cent in January compared to December, making it the second time in three years that the new year had begun with a significant fall.
Even so, taken over a full year, average prices have still risen by 0.8 per cent with the typical home costing £223,691.
Former RICS residential chairman Jeremy Leaf says the Halifax data already feels “historic” and says: “What we are seeing on the ground is the release of some pent-up demand prompting more listings, viewings and offers over the past few weeks than we dared hope for. However, interest is very patchy and real value must be perceived, otherwise little market change will result.”
And Iain McKenzie, chief executive of The Guild of Property Professional, says: “These latest figures prove that the housing market remains remarkably resilient. Even during a period of poor sentiment from homeowners, house prices have increased over the last year, albeit at a slower rate. Home ownership is the bed rock of our society and will remain so for the foreseeable future.”
The Halifax itself, in commentary released alongside its figures, admits the data can be viewed as either a story of resilience or as a continuation of the slow growth we have witnessed over recent years.
“There's no doubt that the next year will be important for the housing market with much of the immediate focus on what impact Brexit may have. However, more fundamentally it is key underlying factors of supply and demand that will ultimately shape the market” explains Russell Galley, Halifax managing director.
Despite a report earlier this week from HouseSimple suggesting a strong current of homes coming on sale, Galley says relatively few properties are being put on the market.
This - along with some wage growth and low mortgage rates - combines to produce demand and so maintain house prices at a relatively strong level, he adds.
But not everyone was relaxed, with Howard Archer - chief economic adviser to the influential EY ITEM Club consultancy - tweeting: “The January Halifax data fans suspicion that heightened consumer concerns amid increased Brexit and economic uncertainties are currently affecting the housing market.”