2008 will go into the record books as the year house prices fell at their fastest rate, with prices dropping over the year at more that double the pace of the previous record fall in 1992.

The Nationwide data out today puts the annual rate of collapse in prices for 2008 at 15.9% compared with 6.3% in 1992.

The Halifax data released at the start of the month puts houses down 18.9% on the year (if you take out the smoothing) compared with a drop of 7.9% in 1992.

House prices are now 17.7% lower than peak on the Nationwide measure and 21.2% off peak according to Halifax's non-seasonally adjusted measure.

So what are we to make of this latest batch of house price figures that have so firmly placed 2008 on the record books for fastest house price crash recorded?

The first thing to say will be of little comfort to the swelling numbers dropping into negative equity.

Inflation and earnings growth in the early stages of the 1990s house price correction was much higher than now so in effect helped to "correct" house prices in real terms with a lower nominal fall. And if we look to the 1970s, high inflation allowed a massive correction in real house prices without actual falls in the cash value of homes.

But even in real terms house prices appear to be falling faster now than in 1992.

The second point is one which I personally find quite scary. House prices in the 1990s had been falling for more than two years before the sharpest falls occurred. And the evidence suggests that the deeper declines were prompted by the rise in unemployment.

If history repeats itself, it may be that we have yet to realise the full force of the falls in house prices in this cycle.

The take provided by both Fionnuala Earley, Nationwide's chief economist and Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist of the surveyors' body RICS on the BBC's Today programme this morning seemed to me a shade on the optimistic side.

Firstly it would help sensible debate if we could rid ourselves of the silly notion that there is some massive underlying demand that didn't exist in the past. The confusion between "need", "desire" and "demand" - strangely even among economists who should know better - combined with loose lending was largely responsible for the mess we are in now.

Instead if we look at the market more broadly in historical terms (there is a series of graphs on the Nationwide press release) we see that it is still some way out of kilter with long term trends, even allowing for some adjustment for changing demographics that may increase underlying demand. House price to earnings ratio is still above the peak of the 1990s.

The uncomfortable, brutal and more logical take is that house prices potentially have a long way yet to fall, especially if rising unemployment obliges those made redundant to sell.

Until we see just how rising unemployment is impacting on the housing market, it will be rather hard to assess the likely pace of falls in prices. The housing market is full of paradoxes and unknowns and as we enter this next phase of the "correction" it would be a brave person that suggests the worst of the falls are behind us.

We are perhaps at the end of the beginning, rather than the beginning of the end. And for my money 2009 may be looking to rival 2008 in the record books.