Surveyors and estate agents have a spring in their step as the Northern Ireland housing market stirs from its winter inertia, according to a market survey.
While potential househunters avoided the elements and stayed indoors in December, they were finally ready to visit properties in January, leading surveyors and estate agents to expect more deals in the next few months.
The housing market health-check by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank detects optimism on most fronts among its members, though a rise in house prices is still far off.
There was a growing number of surveyors who were expecting to see more houses changing hands over the next three months, even though there were not many deals being done in the three months to December.
During January the price balance — the percentage of chartered surveyors who said prices rose in the past three months minus those who say they fell —had improved, up from -49 in December to -28 in January.
RICS housing spokesman Tom McClelland said bad weather had left the housing market particularly depressed.
“There is the expectation that things will improve — albeit from low levels in terms of transaction activity — as we move into the spring, which is generally a busier time of year.”
Patrick Palmer, a partner at residential estate agents Templeton Robinson, agreed.
He said: “We have certainly seen an uplift in interest in people looking at properties. However, they’re not looking then jumping on the bandwagon and making an offer, which is what you would have been previously.
“Instead, they are taking their time. There is more activity with a view to more transactions. The average house price in Northern Ireland recently slid below £150,000 for the first time in five years, compared to a high of £217,600 in 2007.
Mr Palmer added: “In a normal market, an increase in transactions would mean an increase in prices — but in the last four or five years, we haven’t been in a normal market.”