Falls in the prices of Midlands country houses and cottages have slowed as mortgage approval rates rise, according to an estate agent.

The average prime country property in the region fell 4.7 per cent in value in the last three months, compared with a 7.6 per cent slide during the final quarter of 2008, according to Knight Frank.

Edward Russell, of Knight Frank’s Birmingham office, said more deals were being struck across the board, but it was too early to say whether the market had turned.

The Birmingham office saw a 7.6 per cent fall in values in the first quarter, and has seen a 23.6 per cent fall in the past year.

He said: “There is definitely more activity going on and people who have been waiting on the sidelines are now coming forward.

“Our main problem has been the lack of buyer activity over the past 15 months. From peak to trough we are probably 20 per cent down. It is too early to say whether that is changing.

“But across the board we are seeing more buyers viewing properties and getting into negotiations since February.”

Knight Frank said while it was too early to rule out further price falls, there were some good signs as sales volumes were now beginning to increase in the Midlands. Estate agents have seen increased demand from potential buyers since the beginning of the year, while mortgage approvals for house purchase rose by 19 per cent during February and Nationwide reported a 0.9 per cent price rise in March.

But other indexes are continuing to show house price falls.

The latest statistics from the Land Registry show the average price of a new home in the West Midlands was £128,021 in February, which was an annual fall of 17.7 per cent. Rupert Sweeting, Knight Frank’s head of country department, said: “While it would be wrong to say that the market has started to recover across the board, we are undoubtedly in a very different place compared with the end of 2008.

“Viewings are starting to approach normal levels and we are even seeing a return to competitive bidding in some circumstances.”