The property market is declining at its fastest rate in 12 years, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has confirmed.

According to the RICS?s latest figures, 48% more chartered surveyors have reported house price falls over the three months to November than rises, the largest figure since December 1992.

Market activity is also hitting new lows, with the amount of unsold property on estate agents? books rising for the sixth consecutive month to the highest level recorded in over a year, and sales down to their lowest level since August 1995.

In spite of the continued slow down, surveyors? optimism for the property market is high, RICS said, as they believe the low probability of further interest rate increases will eventually encourage more activity.

The London property market, generally regarded as an indicator for the UK market as a whole, is still in decline, but now at a slower rate than the national average, and buyer enquiries in the capital showed their first rise for eight months. The largest price falls occurred in the South and in the Midlands.

RICS expects to see a 3% rise in prices during 2005, with the first half of the year likely to remain weak, but ?modest recovery? anticipated during the second half.

RICS spokesman Ian Perry said: ?The decision by the Bank of England not to increase interest rates further and the healthy economy is allowing confidence to consolidate. Sales usually pick up in the New Year and I am confident this year will be no exception.?