By Claire West

The Halifax have released the figures from their House Price Index for February. Prices fell by 0.9%, continuing a general trend, with the average house price now standing at £162,657 - 2.8% lower than the same time last year.

This annual decline is the largest since October, and comes at a time when the housing market remains slow, with both sales and properties entering the market down previous years. A recent RICS survey showed a fourth successive month of reduction in new seller instructions.

Although the Bank of England's seasonally adjusted figures for mortgages approved for house purchases between December and January increased 7%, usually an indicator of a healthy market, the increase was not enough to lift mortgage approvals from an historic low, with October-December showing 4% lower approvals than July-September.

Martin Ellis, a housing economist, commented: "House prices, as measured by the underlying trend, continue to fall slightly with prices in the three months to February 0.4% lower than in the previous three months.

"There has, however, been little change in house prices over the first two months of 2011 as a whole. February's monthly decline of 0.9% offset January's 0.8% gain.

"Overall, we expect a modest 2% decrease in house prices in 2011. Uncertainty over the economic outlook is likely to weigh down on housing demand this year.

"Fewer properties have been coming onto the market in recent months. This trend, if sustained, should improve the balance between demand and supply and help to prevent a more significant fall in house prices."