The latest official figures produced by Communities and Local Government to gauge house prices suggest the decline in prices accelerated in February to an annual rate of -12.3%, which puts them 14.2% down from peak.

No particular surprise there. But there is a scrap of hope in the figures for those looking for something to cheer them. The rate of decline in prices of homes in the first-time buyer market has declined for the first time since the annual rate of price rises went negative.