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Northern Ireland static as rest of UK sees house prices rise

By Amanda Poole

Published 07/07/2011

UK house prices increased slightly last month, according to a major lender - but estate agents in Northern Ireland said there was no evidence of increasing prices in Northern Ireland.

Elsewhere in the UK, prices were 1.2% higher month-on-month in June with the average home costing £163,049, Halifax said.

Housing economist Martin Ellis said low interest rates, an increase in the number of people in employment and some tightening in market conditions earlier in the year are likely to be the main factors behind the recent improvement in price trends.

But Northern Ireland estate agents said the Halifax view did not reflect their experience.

Richard McCulloch, from Stanley Best Estate Agents in Cookstown, said he has noticed a "slight decrease" in house prices.

"We are noticing more sales, but at the lower end of the market," Mr McCulloch said.

"The Halifax sample size is not large enough to show the entire market.

"There are more buyers out there, but that is linked to prices being at an affordable level.

"We are expecting a slowdown in July and for things to pick up in August.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed for that."

According to the latest University of Ulster house price survey, the average house price in Northern Ireland in the first quarter of 2011 was £143,918 - down from £240,408 at the peak of the boom in 2007.

Gary Best, from Best Property Services in Newry, said the majority of his sales were for property priced under £120,000.

"House prices at a local level are fairly static," he said.

"The sales volume has increased from where we were a year or so ago.

"June has been a fairly active month, but July is expected to be sluggish because of the holiday situation."

Keith Mitchell, from Templeton Robinson in Belfast, said there is uncertainty regarding prices over the next two or three years, but said quarterly results should not put people off buying a home.

The Bank of England is set to give homeowners breathing space today by keeping interest rates on hold at their historic low of 0.5% amid further signs that the UK's economic recovery is faltering.

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