At the same time, Rightmove’s January House Price Index revealed only a 0.4% increase in asking prices – the slowest monthly rise since January 2012.
Asking prices fell to £298,734 from £297,527 in December 2018.
The national average has been dragged down by new to the market sellers who realise they have less pricing power than usual given the current market backdrop, especially in the South, according to Rightmove.
The number of properties coming to market in the first two weeks in 2019 is broadly the same as a year ago, with owners in more northerly regions showing greatest propensity to move.
However, visits to Rightmove rose by five per cent in the first two weeks of 2019, compared to a year ago, with an average of over 4.5m visits each day.
Miles Shipside, Rightmove director and housing market analyst, said: “Agents report that activity is now picking up, though when you dig underneath the national averages, the first snapshot of 2019 shows a somewhat patchy and variable picture depending on where you are in the country.
“Given the current market backdrop and ongoing political turmoil, it’s not surprising that the more challenging conditions in London and its nearby regions mean that they appear to have had a slower start to the year.
“Traditionally this is the time of year when more movers look at a wider choice of fresh property supply and kick-start the market, and this year’s buyers have the added spur of the slowest rate of new year price increases for five years.”
House price growth falls
Separate research from Your Move showed annual price growth continued to slow standing at its lowest level since April 2012 at 0.6%.
Average house prices are up by £1,690 over the last 12 months, meaning the average property price in England and Wales at the end of the year stood at £306,647.
Overall the market continues to flatline, but regional and local variations are becoming increasingly marked.
Annual growth in the North West and East and West Midlands is outpacing inflation, while the South East, East and Greater London are all struggling to maintain growth at all.
While the market is still seeing nominal price growth, the number of transactions has fallen – down 2.4% in 2018 on the previous year.
The slowdown in house price growth has, however, made house prices more affordable in real terms over the last year, and the mortgage market remains highly favourable for buyers.
Oliver Blake, managing director of Your Move and Reeds Rains estate agents, said that due to current political and economic unrest it is understandable why buyers and sellers may be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to the property market.
He added: “In turn, as demand waivers, it means that property may become more affordable to more people. This should help buyers, and first-time buyers in particular, when they are ready to act.”