For the third month in a row Hometrack has registered steady house prices, with a perkier southern market compensating for weaker activity in the north.

But this has not led Richard Donnell, Director of Research at the housing market data provider, to call the bottom of the market.

Viewed in isolation, ignoring the data on the broader economy, it is easy to see these figures as positive, with the time to sell homes dropping, lower discounts and more postcodes registering price rises.

But Richard still feels that a broad based recovery is some years away. And it seems evident that he, like many observers of the housing market, sensibly remains open minded about how the strengths of the forces driving up prices will play against those that may drive prices down.

The impact of rising unemployment has yet to figure large in the data.

Although it is easy to read the regional figures as a hint that the relatively worse performance in the north compared with the south may be down to a broadly weaker jobs prospects in the north.

The current stasis in house prices appears to be, in Richard's view as in many others, created by the lack mortgage finance and lower buyer confidence on the down side pitted against increased demand, a pick up in sales and a growing scarcity of homes on the market on the upside.

This is clearly fragile. And one can easily paint mental pictures of quite dramatic market reactions to a change in any of these factors.

Until we see more evidence of how big a role rising unemployment will play within the housing market it seems very prudent to hold fire on big pronouncements about which way the market is heading.