Official figures show that prices of houses and apartments across the country fell at their fastest annual rate in two years last month, with a particularly sharp fall in house prices in Dublin.

The Centeal Statistics Office says house prices in Dublin are 55% lower than their peak level in early 2007, while Dublin apartment prices are 59% lower than in February 2007.

The fall in residential property prices in the rest of Ireland is lower at 43%.

Fresh figures show property prices dropped by 17.4% in the year to January, the biggest annual fall since January 2010.

The fall is being blamed on the lack of lending and consequent lack of buying - a market condition that creates an economic 'freefall' in prices.

Economists say house prices will continue to fall until credit returns to the market and the future is still unpredictable.

There was a 1.9% decline during the month of January after a 1.7% drop in December. Prices nationally are now 48% below peak levels reached in early 2007.

In Dublin, residential property prices fell by 4% in January and were 21.1% lower than a year ago.

Dublin house prices fell by 4.1% in the month - their biggest drop since March 2009 - and were 21.7% lower compared with a year earlier. Dublin apartment prices were 18.4% lower when compared with the same month of 2010.

Dublin apartment prices dropped by 3.5% during January, having risen for the previous two months.

Prices of residential properties in the rest of Ireland dropped by 0.7% in the month, giving an annual fall of 15.1%.