HOUSE prices in Northern Ireland are expected to stabilise over the next few months as the number of sales goes up, a survey said today.
The monthly report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said many estate agents and surveyors believe more sales will take place in June, July and August.
All said they believed prices will remain the same over the next three months – and nearly 60% said they had been steady over the last three months.
Just over half said there had been a steady number of transactions in the three-month period.
According to the separate residential property price index published by the Department of Finance and Personnel last month, property prices fell by 6% in the year to March 2013, compared to 14% in the same period a year earlier.
The index gives a standardised property price of £94,311 for the first three months of the year, compared to a 2007 peak of £208,000.
RICS Northern Ireland spokesman Tom McClelland said the prospect of prices steadying was to be welcomed. "We don't expect to see any increase in prices because the drivers which would push prices up, such as easy access to money, are not there.
"What we are really hoping for is for the numbers of house sales to start increasing a bit more than they have at prices which people can afford – rather than drastic increases which would lead to another burst of the bubble in 15 to 20 years' time."
A spokesman for Best Property Services in Newry said he agreed with the findings of the survey covering the last three months.
"At the lower end of the market there have been sales by the banks coming through.
"That's stimulating investors and there a few cash buyers who are all coming in looking for property.
"We are seeing more first-time buyers – but further up the market things are somewhat slow. There is not the volume that we see in the bracket of £85,000 to £90,000 but there have been some sales coming through for larger detached homes."
Paddy Turley of Ulster Property Sales in Belfast said sales across its group of 10 offices were up on last year.
Its south Belfast branch was busy thanks to activity in the Stranmillis and Malone areas which he said had not been happening last year.
"We are seeing very strong demand on the buyer side and a couple of occasions where properties have been in a bidding situation."
But he added: "Other areas are still slow, particularly in areas where lots of bank repossessed properties are on the market."
Across the province, the main problem was vendor confidence, he said.
According to RICS across the UK, surveyors in all regions are expecting "positive growth" in 2013.