Property prices have continued to tumble with no sign that the market has reached a bottom, official data shows.
Several economists have estimated that average house prices have fallen by up to 60% over the past five years with a further drop expected.
The latest figures from the CSO show property prices fell 17.8% over the past 12 months — the largest annual rate of decrease since Dec 2009.
The price of residential homes fell by 2.2% last month alone following on from a 1.9% decrease in January — the biggest monthly decline since Mar 2009.
The CSO has estimated that the average price of property is now 49% off the peak of the market recorded in Sept 2007.
It has calculated that the drop has seen average prices of properties in Dublin fall 57% from the peak and 45% in the rest of the country.
However, Davy chief economist, Conall MacCoille, said the true pace of decline could be greater as many commentators believe the CSO index understates the fall in house prices as it excludes cash purchases and lags the market by several months.
Mr MacCoille said he believed the actual rate of the price crash was 55% to 60%.
In good news for buyers, however, he said it appeared that house prices were now close to long-run affordable levels.
“House prices relative to average disposable incomes have fallen back to similar levels as those during the 1990s.”
Nevertheless, the Davy economist predicted that house prices still had further to fall due to an excess of supply of property, credit restrictions, and an uncertain economic outlook.
Mr MacCoille said the latest results reinforced his view that the overall decline in house prices would see a peak-to-trough of up to 70%.
Bloxham chief economist Alex McQuaid echoed his colleague’s views on the market by claiming that house prices were more likely to fall further in the near future.
“We don’t see any significant improvement in the housing market until the employment situation gets better and bank lending returns to some sort of ‘normality’.”
Mr McQuaid said another double-digit decline was likely in 2012 following the drop of almost 13% in house prices last year.
He said the CSO figures were not all bad news as Ireland is now the second most affordable property market after the US.
It now costs little more than three times the average salary to buy a house here as against 10 times at the height of the boom.
However, Mr McQuaid said the continuing fall in house was bad for overall consumer confidence.
According to the CSO figures, residential property prices in Dublin fell by 1.2% last month and were 20.3% lower than a year ago.
However, apartment prices in the capital fell by a dramatic 6.3% in February and by almost 23% over the past year.
Outside Dublin, property prices fell 3% last month and are 16.4% lower than in Feb 2011.
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