House prices rise for the first time since 2007 in Northern Ireland
House prices appear to have steadied for the first time in nearly six years, according to a monthly survey of estate agents.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said members were at their most positive since summer 2007 about how the housing market had performed during the first three months of this year.
In the first three months of this year more surveyors said prices were on the up than those who said they were still on a downward track, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank housing market survey.
A net balance of 9% of members told the organisation that prices had grown in January, February and March.
Just over 60% said they had stayed the same, 24% they were up and 15% said they were lower.
The survey results mark the first time since July 2007 that the net balance was above zero, which RICS said indicated rising prices.
There were also signs that transactions were increasing, and members also expected they would keep increasing.
But there was still caution over house prices, and only 11% of those surveyed expected them to go up in the next three months.
House prices have fallen dramatically over the last six years, with the Government's residential property price index citing a standardised property price in Northern Ireland of £91,553 – down more than 50% on 2007's peak of £209,857.
Will Miscampbell, a partner in Fetherston Clements estate agents in Belfast, said the market had become more consistent.
"Confidence is being taken from the increasing number of homes being sold, allowing purchasers to compare recent sales and feel comfortable they aren't over-paying for a property.
"Affordability across all market sectors hasn't been as good for a decade and purchasers in many instances are finding mortgage payments can be less than renting.
"The publication of these statistics underlines what we have been seeing first hand as agents for some time."
He said bidding had taken place in recent sales, and purchasers were seeming less concerned about substantial falls in value.
Richard McCulloch, an estate agent at Stanley Best in Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, said the findings of the survey tallied with his firm's experience "in broad terms".
"We are seeing a little bit more confidence from buyers, and certainly more activity in the first-time buyers.
"Enquiries are up 20% on this time last year and certainly, there is a little bit more optimism – but I'm not going to be jumping for joy just yet as the market is overall still in the doldrums."
RICS Northern Ireland spokesman, Tom McClelland, says: "We are seeing transaction volumes gradually increasing, which is welcome news.
"In terms of prices, the picture has been improving in recent months but surveyors remain cautious about the outlook.
"We remain of the view that there will continue to be seasonal adjustments, and that 2013 will see an underlying trend of easing price falls and modestly improving transaction volumes."