Residential property prices fell 3% in March compared to a year earlier, but they rose slightly in Dublin, new Central Statistics Office figures show.

The annual rate of decline in residential property prices has slowed sharply from 16.3% a year ago, but prices are on average 51% below their 2007 peak.

The CSO said the March fall of 3% compares with an annual rate of decline of 2.6% in February.

Taken monthly, residential property prices fell by 0.5% in the month of March. This compares with a decrease of 1.5% recorded in February.

Dublin house prices were on average 1.4% higher than a year ago, but Dublin apartment prices were 2.2% lower than in the same month of last year.

The CSO noted though that there is a lot of volatitlity in the apartment index, because of the low number of sales.

The price of residential properties in the rest of Ireland, excluding Dublin, fell by 0.3% in March compared with a decline of 0.6% in March last year. Prices were 5.8% lower than in March 2012.

The CSO says that overall house prices in Dublin are now 55% lower than at their highest level in early 2007. Apartments in Dublin are 62% lower than they were in March 2007.

Commenting on today's figures, Davy's chief economist Conal MacCoill said they suggest that the housing market may have cooled in early 2013 following the expiration of mortgage interest relief.

He said he believes the improvement in affordability will underpin house prices. ''But constrained mortgage lending, and increased supply of repossessed homes, will limit the pace of the recovery,'' he added.