Perceptions of a looming house price correction gathered pace yesterday as official figures showed a 1.6% fall in prices in February. Financial Times, The Times

Flats fell by 2.9%, detached homes by 1.5% and terraced properties by 1.1%, according to the data from the Department for Communities and Local Government. The average cost of a home was £217,737 at the end of the month, its lowest level since last June.

The DCLG figures are more reliable than those of lenders such as Nationwide and Halifax, but lag behind them by several months. As a result, they may underestimate the extent of the slowdown which, to judge from a separate survey from the RICS yesterday, is worsening rapidly.

The RICS report, which gauges surveyors’ optimism, showed a record 78.5% of them reporting falling prices in March, a figure well ahead of the early 1990s.