Nothing, absolutely nothing, can stop British house prices from soaring on regardless.

Not four interest rate increases in 12 months. Not a global credit crisis unleashed by a slide in American house prices. Not the socially corrosive anomaly that over most of Britain nobody earning ordinary money can afford an ordinary home.

That is how it looked in August, if Nationwide got it right. Instead of slackening off, as advertised, the pace of house price inflation quickened.

The best that can be said is that we are not yet back to last autumn when house prices rose by one per cent-plus in three months out of four.

True, year-on-year the trend is down and set to ease further - but only because last autumn drops out of the annual reckoning, not because this autumn's house market turns flat.

The annual rate is still nine per cent - more than four times both the Bank of England inflation target and what our Prime Minister says is the limit for public sector pay.

Happily, providing you are not trying to sell your place, that is not the whole picture.

Nationwide may not be wrong, but it never sees the homes bought without a mortgage.

Much of the impetus in recent years has come from bonus-rich City types buying for cash in London.

Londoners who sell to them then have cash to splurge out elsewhere, hence the familiar ripple effect.

Well, there is going to be less of that this winter, fewer bonuses, for sure, and probably slimmer ones.

Then look at the supply side of the equation.

For whatever reason, many fewer homes are coming on to the market.

That holds prices up even if there are fewer buyers, too. This is why the num bers of mortgages approved by the banks for house purchase has fallen - down 14 per cent year on year in August.

Fewer people are moving. They are buying furniture, carpets, even DIY stuff, to smarten up the homes they have, the CBI says.

Fridges, freezers, cookers - things you buy when you move - are sticking in the showrooms.

Then banks and building societies are getting more picky - not before time. Nationwide's economist says the difference between the average rate charged for an average 95 per cent mortgage and that for a - less risky - 75 per cent mortgage has risen to 0.45 per cent from 0.23 per cent in April.

Some aggressive buy-to-let packages have been withdrawn altogether, according to Moneyfacts. Those that remain require the loan to be covered more comfortably by the rent - and some buy-to-let lenders are now charging up-front fees of up to five per cent of the mortgage.

It all adds up to a sporting chance the the housing market really could be heading for the "soft landing"' we were told is next to impossible after a riproaring boom like the one we have had.

One freak effect of this month's money market drama is that fixed-rate mortgages have got cheaper.

All the home-buyers with earlier fixes expiring this winter could replace them far more cheaply than seemed possible even a month ago. Fingers crossed.