Building approvals slumped heavily in January and are well down on most analysts’ expectations.

A 15.3 per cent seasonally adjusted monthly fall in dwelling approvals meant 1,700 fewer homes were given the go-ahead.

Unit and townhouse approvals were down by 35.5 per cent while house approvals edged 0.3 per cent higher.

Analysts had expected a flat overall result – about a 1.0 per cent gain in approvals – though some had noted potential volatility on account of summer bushfire disruptions.

Tuesday’s figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics stand in contrast to a rebounding housing market, although January is usually a month of less activity.

Home buyers have steadily returned to the market during the past 12 months, encouraged by low interest rates and more relaxed lending standards.

Development activity and auction clearance rates in capital cities have also gathered pace.

The approvals data comes ahead of the Reserve Bank announcing its cash rate decision for March at 1430 AEDT.