The average price of a house in Ireland has fallen by its sharpest level since a housing price index was established in 1996.

The average house now costs about €248,640 ($346,600), similar to the prices being paid five years ago in 2004.

The index showed that the average price dropped by 1.9 percent in April from the previous month.

The index was established by the Economic and Social Research Institute and two of Ireland's biggest mortgage lenders, Permanent and TSB.

Overall, the average price of a house has dropped by 10.7 percent in April from a year ago.

House prices in Ireland went into decline in March 2007, marking the start of a property crash.