Hometrack figures show slight monthly increase but prices are down on this time last year

The latest figures released by housing information firm Hometrack indicate that house prices rose by 0.1% in January on the previous month.

However the survey shows prices 0.8% down on the same time last year and reveals a sluggish start to the year as the market shrugs off the usual seasonal affects after an unexpectedly strong end to 2009.

January saw a decline both in the number of new sales agreed and in buyer registrations - the average time to sell posted its first monthly increase for 12 months, growing to an average of 8.6 weeks.

The volume of housing for sale continues to decline and this was a key factor in supporting price rises albeit in just three regions of the country - Greater London, the South East and the South West. Prices remained static in all other areas.

Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said: “Despite national trends pointing to lower numbers of sales agreed, the small monthly increase was as a result of prices rising in just 7% of postcodes - these largely confined to southern England.

"It is worth noting that the average price of property in rising markets is 35% higher than that of the national average (£212,000 compared to £157,000). This highlights how pockets of the market, where scarcity of supply and equity fuelled demand, are creating upward pressure on prices."