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Inquiries soar from first-time buyers

By Margaret Canning

Demand from first-time buyers in Northern Ireland rose faster in the last three months than other parts of the UK, a body representing surveyors said.

Half of property inquiries from July to September were from first-timers, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The figures are contained in the monthly RICS housing market survey for Northern Ireland, published today.

First-time buyer inquiries for Northern Ireland — as a proportion of overall enquiries — was higher than elsewhere.

The next highest proportion of first-time buyer queries came in the north west of England, where 23% of property queries came from people who were new to the market.

Tom McClelland, RICS Northern Ireland housing spokesman, said: “Significantly reduced asking prices, low interest rates and incentives from developers have enticed first time buyers back.

It is not surprising that figures for first-time buyer inquiries in Northern Ireland are higher than elsewhere, given that prices have fallen further here and developers have been acting decisively to shift stock.

“The 2007 property downturn was caused by prices rising far beyond affordable levels for first time buyers. Lower selling prices encourage first-time buyers back into the market and is good news for construction industry jobs.”

But Mr McClelland was cautious on what inquiries would mean in real terms.

“While reduced asking prices and low interest rates are attractive to first time buyers, with unemployment continuing to rise and the economy set to be significantly impacted by cuts in public expenditure, this will likely impact the housing market,” Mr McClelland said.

The RICS report came as stockbroking firm Davy said its research suggested any recovery in the housing market would be slow.

But other recent surveys paint a cheerier picture with Nationwide and Halifax all reporting small rises in house prices.

Ulster Bank’s head of lending products, Derek Wilson, said: “First-time buyers are critical to the health of the housing market and an increasing number of first-time buyer inquiries will be seen as a further indication of growing stability and confidence.”

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