New Central Statistics Office figures show that the pace of growth in house prices nationwide slowed slightly in the year to January.

Residential property prices grew by 6.3% in the year to January, down from the growth rate of 6.4% in December. 

The CSO said that residential property prices fell by 0.7% in the month of January - the first monthly fall since March. The fall compared with an increase of 0.3% in December and a fall of 0.6% in January last year.

Today's figures show that residential property prices in Dublin fell by 1.3% in January. Dublin house prices fell by 1.5% in the month but remain 13.2% higher compared to the same time a year ago.

Dublin apartment prices eased by 0.2% last month but are still 16.7% higher when compared to the same month in 2013.

The price of residential properties in the rest of the country were unchanged in January compared to a fall of 1.6% the same time last year. 

Commenting on today's figures, Investec economist Philip O'Sullivan said that they were something of a milestone, in that they heralded the spread of the recovery in prices seen in Dublin last year to other areas of the country.

Noting the "two tier" market in Ireland of recent months, he said the second tier of this market - areas outside of the Dublin region - finally returned to growth in January, with the ‘National excluding Dublin’ component posting its first year on year gain in six years.

Merrion economist Alan McQuaid pointed out that January is traditionally a poor month for the housing market, and the market would not have been helped this year by the storm-like conditions across the country. 

"Furthermore, the official CSO data are based on mortgage draw-downs and don’t give a true sense of what is going on in the property market because they exclude cash transactions. According to some estate agents, cash buyers account for around half of activity at the moment," the economist said. 

Mr McQuaid said that the recent signs of general improvement in the labour market and on the jobs front should boost disposable incomes and help sustain the housing market recovery in the short-term, especially in Dublin. 

"Overall, we see an average rise in Irish house prices of around 6% in 2014, with Dublin posting the biggest increase, of 10% plus," he concluded.