House prices are continuing to "fluctuate quite widely" after the average price dropped 2.4% last month, mortgage lender Halifax says.

The fall in the typical cost, to £159,883, follows an increase of 2.2% in March and leaves prices 0.3% higher than three months ago, the lender says.

Key Points

  • Average house price fell 2.4% in April says Halifax
  • Average house price now £159,883
  • 'House prices continue to lack real direction'

Martin Ellis, housing economist at Halifax, says: "Despite the slight improvement in the underlying trend in recent months, house prices continue to lack real direction, with the current UK average price little different to where it was at the end of 2011."

The rise in the three-month indicator was the first increase on this measure since September, following six successive falls, Halifax says.

But prices in the three months to April were 0.5% lower than in the same period a year earlier.

The UK average price in April 2012, at £159,883, was almost equal to the £159,888 in December, according to the Halifax index.

The end of the stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers in late March appears to have boosted home sales early this year as buyers rushed to beat the deadline, and has probably contributed to the volatility in house prices, Halifax adds.

'Prices expected to fall further'

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, expects house prices to fall by a further 3% by the end of 2012.

He says: "Housing market activity is very low compared to long-term norms. And the economic fundamentals currently look worrying overall for the housing market with unemployment high and likely to rise further, earnings growth muted, and the outlook uncertain."

Yesterday, mortgage lender Nationwide said house prices dipped a further 0.2% in April, after a steeper 1% fall recorded the previous month, meaning average UK house prices now stand at £164,134, according to its index.

Borrowers face tougher hurdles to get a mortgage in the first place. Availability is expected to decrease in the coming months as lenders tighten borrowing criteria, something which has already triggered a fall in the proportion of mortgages approved by lenders.

Bank of England figures showed earlier in the week the number of mortgage approvals for house purchases rose by 1.5% in March, but they remained firmly below the previous six-month average.