British house prices fell in December at their fastest rate since the recession of the early 1990s, a survey showed on Wednesday, raising fears the country's once buoyant housing market is heading for a sharp downturn.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' house price balance fell to -49.1 in December, its lowest since November 1992, from -40.6 in November.
The consensus was for a more modest drop to -45.0 and the fall marked the fifth consecutive month of easing prices.
Surveyor confidence in the sales and price outlook deteriorated markedly, the survey showed, with both measures reaching their lowest level since the questions were first included in the survey in 1998.
"The housing market is clearly feeling the pinch from the credit crunch and the round of interest rate hikes in 2007," said RICS spokesman Ian Perry.
However he noted that while sentiment has fallen sharply, economic conditions were "vastly different" to those of the early 1990s when interest rates were in double-digits.
The survey showed the stock of unsold property on surveyors' books jumped by a further 7.1 percent after a 9.1 percent rise in November and a 10.3 percent gain in October.
The percentage of completed sales compared to the stock of unsold property on the market fell to 30.7 percent in December, suggesting market conditions are now looser than at any time since August 2005.