Monthly house prices fell by 0.4% between September and October, representing the fifth monthly decline in the past year.
According to HMRC, home sales also contracted for the seventh month in succession falling to 97,450 in September or 11% below their recent in peak in February 2014 at 109,530.
Martin Ellis, housing economist, said the associated weakening in demand has brought supply and demand into better balance with mortgage approvals at a 14-month low in September at 61,300.
“The economy is, however, continuing to grow at a healthy pace and employment is still rising. These factors should support housing demand over the coming months. However, while the chances of an imminent interest rate hike may have receded, a recent Halifax survey found that many borrowers are concerned about the impact a rise could have on their monthly mortgage repayments over the next 12 months. This concern is likely to curb buying intentions.”
Alex Gosling, managing director of online estate agents, Housesimple.co.uk, said: “A period of calm and consolidation in house prices would be no bad thing if it gave helps buyers focus on factors other than just the fear of being left behind by spiralling prices.
“But mortgage approval levels are falling – and this is a worry. It’s too early to say whether this is down to buyers stopping searching or simply that they are being made to think twice by tougher lending criteria.”
Stephen Smith, director at Legal & General Mortgage Club, said: “These figures show that the house prices are steadying and we are not seeing the huge leaps in prices we saw at the beginning of the year. Although this may feel like the housing market is slowing down it is important to remember that the past year has seen an annual increase of 8.8%. This level of growth is not sustainable. House prices need to grow at a similar rate to wage inflation for the market to be stable and healthy in the long term.
“There is a danger if things continue as they are that people will get priced out of the market to continue to grow sustainably, we need to be building more houses as demand still outstrips supply. However, as we approach the general election, it is good to see this issue moving towards the top of the political agenda.”