The housing market has continued to deteriorate in 2008 as more estate agents report falling prices, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has reported.

The RICS house price balance, which shows how many surveyors are reporting a house price fall compared to house price rise, showed market sentiment worsened in January for the sixth month in succession.

The balance showed that 2% of surveyors reported a rise in house prices compared to 56% reporting a fall – giving a house price balance of -54%.

The figures show an increase in surveyors reporting a drop in prices compared to December 2007 when the house price balance was -49.1%.

Watching from the wings

‘Tightening mortgage lending criteria is a block to many who are keen to take the housing market plunge,’ said RICS spokesman Jeremy Leaf. ‘Agents are finding it difficult to market properties to an audience which has decided to watch the current economic theatre from the wings.

'However, if mortgage lenders filter the recent interest rate cuts into the market, demand should begin to increase.

‘In the near term, the housing market will continue to be shielded from significant price falls while employment conditions are strong.’

As with last month the only area to report increases in house prices was Scotland.

The largest house price falls were in the North and East Midlands while the smallest falls were in Wales and London.