Falling house prices are causing buyers to pull out of property transactions in large numbers. Sunday Telegraph

Estate agents and mortgage brokers warn that the market is close to gridlock, with chains collapsing through buyers taking fright.

Britain’s biggest broker, Charcol, has seen a rise of more than 50% in the past six months of purchasers dropping out even though a mortgage had been agreed.

Estate agents also report that four in 10 deals are falling through because buyers fear being saddled with properties worth less than they paid for them.

Jeremy Leaf, a spokesman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: 'Six months or a year ago, roughly 80% of deals went through, but that figure has fallen to typically 60%. People have become worried about price levels and are afraid that if they go ahead today, the property will be worth less in a few months’ time.'

A survey for the moneysupermarket. com website found that barely half of mortgage applications were being approved in October, compared with 67% a year ago.