If you bought a house in 2003 or afterwards there is a fair change that by 2013 it will be worth just the same or less than as you paid for it.

That is the grimmest view taken by the forecasters at the economic consultant CEBR.

However, looking at the most optimistic economic scenario, the CEBR forecasters think that house prices might just claw their way back to 2007 levels by early in 2013.

Either way, taking the CEBR central forecast, 2009 is expected to see a bigger fall in house prices that we saw last year. And that will drag house prices down 32% from the peak in September 2007 to the bottom of the slump.

CEBR House price forecast jan 2009.GIF

This is a significant downgrade on the CEBR forecast of just three months ago, when the view was that the peak-to-trough fall would be limited to 25%.

But even their most downbeat forecast isn't quite as bad as the prices you can buy on the derivatives market. There, the Tradition Future HPI puts the bottom of the market at about £109,000, which would take prices back to those last seen in early 2002.

Looking at the forecasts for mortgage approvals will provide a little bit more relief in the boardrooms of house builders and developers and in estate agents around the country.

The CEBR sees a bounce back in mortgage activity from the severe slump caused by the credit crunch. The assumptions behind this however rest heavily on the success of the measures to put more security into the mortgage market.

CEBR forecast approvals jan 2009.GIF

"We now stand at a point where direct government intervention to increase the level of mortgage availability - such as new issuance of mortgage-backed securities - will certainly stimulate housing market activity and stem falling prices," say Ben Read, managing economist at CEBR.

Fair point, but I still think it is rather too early to guess the plot of the next act until we see just what role unemployment has to play in this developing drama.