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Property sales up, but prices still down

By Helen Carson

House sales have risen by almost 30% during the first quarter of this year, but prices have plummeted by 5.8% during this time, it was revealed today.

The latest figures from the University of Ulster’s Quarterly House Price Survey show that 925 houses were sold from January to March this year compared to 684 in the last three months of 2010.

And falling prices mean the average value of a house in Northern Ireland is now £143,918, which is a double-digit decrease of 15% compared to a year ago.

Industry experts who compiled the report have claimed house repossession sales, which included many homes sold at rock bottom prices, have impacted on the bottom line figure among other things.

The survey authors professors Alastair Adair and Stanley McGreal and Dr David McIlhatton said the findings showed the local housing market is “still in a state of flux”.

However, the report points out prices could improve later this year as demand for houses levels out.

The authors said: “The increase in sample size indicates a greater level of activity in the housing market during the first quarter of 2011 but average price levels are still lagging. As demand levels consolidate it is likely that prices will start to firm up later in the year.”

The housing market at the beginning of 2010 was also stronger before the General Election after which it was affected by a different economic climate, according to the survey.

And house prices vary according to where you live in Northern Ireland, with Belfast and commuter towns like Lisburn recovering quicker than provincial towns and rural areas.

Alan Bridle, UK economist, Bank of Ireland UK, said: “While there is no certainty we have yet reached the absolute trough, it is clear the residential market is now more affordable and more aligned to incomes.”

Meanwhile, Joe Frey, the Housing Executive’s head of research, welcomed the rise in house sales as “hopefully the first sign that the downward drift in house prices is coming to an end”, but added buyer confidence must be rebuilt while not painting an overly optimistic view of the latest findings.

Mr Simon Brien, director at BTWCairns Estate Agents, said: “Since January 1 this year we have had just under 450 properties sale agreed and the University of Ulster House Price report reflects the tail end of 2010 and beginning of this year sales.

“More houses are selling which is a positive and these are divided 50/50 between new homes and resales.”

Belfast Telegraph


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