house prices
House prices in the UK have fallen 2.4 percent in April, according to Halifax (Reuters)

UK house prices plunged by their highest monthly figure in over a year in April, as demand dropped when the stamp duty holiday for first time buyers ended in March.

The average house price fell 2.4 percent in April, according to the latest Halifax House Price Index, wiping out a 2.2 percent gain in March and sending another shiver down the economy's spine after recent news that it has slumped back into recession.

"The ending of the stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers in late March appears to have boosted home sales early this year as buyers strove to beat the deadline, and has probably contributed to the volatility in house prices in the last few months," Martin Ellis, a housing economist at Halifax, said.

"We continue to expect little overall movement in prices as the UK economic situation remains challenging."

The average cost of a UK home is £159,883 according to Halifax's index, Britain's longest-running monthly measure of house prices.

Quarter-on-quarter house prices are up 0.3 percent, but comparing the latest figures to April the previous year there is a 0.5 percent decline.

Halifax also reported that total completed house sales in the first three months of the year were up 11 percent compared with the first quarter of 2011, and the highest of any quarter since the 2008 financial crisis.

The bank, which is owned by Lloyds Banking Group, said that its recent housing market confidence survey revealed that 40 percent of respondents think house prices will increase across 2012, double the 20 percent who think they will fall.

Bank of England statisticians recently reported an increase in mortgage approvals in March, as they hit 49,860.

This is up from February's 49,029 figure and defied forecasts of a dip to 48,000.