House prices resume slide in October

A woman walks along a residential street in Bristol August 12, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - House prices fell for the third month in four in October, a survey showed on Thursday in a sign the downturn in the country’s property market is becoming more entrenched.

Mortgage lender Nationwide said the average price of a property fell 0.7 percent this month after a flat reading in September.

That was almost twice the drop economists had expected and meant the three-month on three-month rate of decline accelerated to 1.5 percent, the largest such decline since April 2009.

“October saw a continuation of the modest downward trend in house prices that began at the start of the summer,” said Nationwide chief economist Martin Gahbauer.

The annual pace of house price growth slowed to 1.4 percent from 3.1 percent. Nationwide said that if recent trend were to continue to the end of the year, it would leave prices flat to slightly lower over 2010 as a whole -- a far cry from the rise of around 6 percent recorded in 2009.

The lender’s figures tally with a raft of data showing last year’s property market recovery has moved into reverse as Britons prepare for the toughest government spending squeeze in generations.

Mortgage approvals have already fallen to their lowest in over a year as banks restrict credit to all but the safest of borrowers.

Nationwide said an expansion of the Bank of England’s quantitative easing programme could help put a floor under prices. However, expectations the Bank might decide to pump more money into the economy as early as next month took a knock earlier this week when data showed the economy grew by a robust 0.8 percent in the third quarter.

Rival lender Halifax said house prices fell 3.6 percent in September, the biggest monthly decline since records began in 1983. It will publish data for October early next month.

Editing by Ruth Pitchford