The gloom pervading the stagnant housing market thickened last month, as properties lingered on surveyors’ books and uncertainty grew over the outlook for house prices, an influential survey shows today. Financial Times

The RICS reports that the stock of unsold property jumped more than 10% in January, the fourth consecutive monthly rise, resulting in the loosest market conditions for more than two years.

However, surveyors expect this slowdown to be more severe than that of 2005, with a trend of falling prices gathering pace. RICS said 56% of respondents reported price falls in their area, while just 2% reported price rises.

The negative balance of 54, compared with 49.1 the previous month, is the most pessimistic since November 1992. Confidence in the outlook for prices – a question first included in the survey in 1998 – is at the lowest level on record.

In contrast with the 1990s downturn, however, the survey suggests the market’s weakness is due more to tighter credit conditions, curtailing demand, than to a rush of forced sales.