Northern Ireland's housing market 'most buoyant in the UK' for surveyors, says RICS
Northern Ireland's housing market is the strongest in the UK with surveyors and estate agents reporting a surge in business, research said today.
The latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank residential market survey said indicators for inquiries, prices, and expectations had all been positive in June.
Indeed, RICS members in Northern Ireland were the most positive of any UK region.
And overall, the Northern Ireland housing market performed better than expected during the first half of the year, shrugging off political uncertainty and slow economic growth.
Newly agreed sales also increased in June, according to Northern Ireland surveyors, after decreasing in May. However, the rate of properties coming onto the market slowed down during June, according to the survey, suggesting that supply issues are persisting as some people put off moving out of their homes.
RICS residential property spokesman Samuel Dickey said: "The latest survey brings to an end the first half of 2017 and the market has performed better than expected in the past six months.
"Indeed, expectations for the market strengthened in June.
"As we move into the latter half of the year, there continues to be some political uncertainty, and consumers will feel something of a squeeze from rising inflation.
"However, the latest survey suggests that there is still momentum in the local housing market and that surveyors remain positive about the outlook."
But economist Andrew Webb of Webb Advisory said figures reflecting sentiment about economic issues could be volatile.
He said the latest Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency report had said prices were down 2.3% in Belfast between the last quarter of 2016 and the first quarter of 2017.
"That said, the recovery since 2008 has been solid and I think we need to take a few more quarters of data to form a harder view," he added.
"A slowdown in property coming on to the market could reflect uncertainty in economic prospects or merely a lack of choice. That can drive prices up for those that do come on the market, so it's hard to draw a firm conclusion yet."
Sean Murphy, managing director of personal banking at Ulster Bank, said: "At Ulster Bank, we continue to see a good flow of mortgage interest and we expect demand to remain strong in the second half of the year.
"Buying or moving home remains an attractive option for many people, as, despite rising prices, buying in Northern Ireland remains relatively very affordable.
"We see evidence that people retain a strong desire to own their own home."
The latest Northern Ireland House Price Index from Land and Property Services and Nisra - covering the first quarter of the year - reported a standardised house price for the province of £124,007.
That was down 0.8% on the previous quarter, but up 4.3% year on year.
Over the year, the area of Newry, Mourne and Down reported the highest percentage increase in standardised prices at 7.9%. All local government districts grew, but the weakest growth was in Mid Ulster at just 2%.
But compared to the quarter before, seven out of 11 districts saw a fall in their standardised price, with Mid and East Antrim reporting the most pronounced fall at 3.1%.