House sales have plummeted nationally as middle and high-end owners avoid listing their properties as the financial turmoil continues.

In Sydney, sales of homes at auction are just over half the level they were at the same time last year, while sales in Melbourne have plummeted to less than a third.

While property clearance rates -- the proportion of auctioned properties being sold -- continued to improve in the southern capitals over the weekend, property volumes reveal a grimmer story. In Sydney the auction clearance rate was 63 per cent, up from 47 per cent the same weekend last year. But the number of properties sold slumped from 229 last year to just 127 at the weekend.

In Melbourne the auction clearance rate remained steady -- at 66 per cent -- but the number of properties listed for sale crashed from 1265 the same weekend last year to just 396.

Real Estate Institute of Victoria head Enzo Raimondo said it was the decline in properties available for sale that had driven the recovery in clearance rates.

The Australian