Belfast Telegraph

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A little home comfort from the collapse in house values

By David Elliott

Starting the year with another story on how far the property market has fallen may prompt a few feelings of deja vous. Anyone who has been in any way close to the trade in houses won't be surprised to hear that the average price of four walls came tumbling down by over 8% in the last 12 months.

Nor will they be surprised to learn we now have the lowest average house prices in all of the United Kingdom regions covered by the Nationwide survey.

It is, however, slightly galling to see how wide the gasp is.

We are trailing some of those regions by a country mile and are way behind the UK average of only a 1.1% fall.

But again we shouldn't be too surprised.

Firstly the property boom here was more pronounced here than in the rest of the UK so we were obviously going to fall further; hence the estimates of a 60% peak-to-trough fall by some commentators.

Secondly - and you're probably sick of hearing this - we lag behind the UK economy as a whole and, in particular, the property markets in London and the south east of England were always going to pick up before our own.

Hopefully the positive readings in that part of the world for the last year will translate into support for the Northern Ireland market. There are early indicators of a pick up in the economy.

That said, it really is difficult to get over the fact that average house prices in London are nearly three times those in Northern Ireland.

Average salaries are obviously much higher in the city but not three times the rate commanded here.

That means many workers in London are forced to commute from the south east and other outlying areas and can spend a huge portion of their day on underground or overground trains and buses.

So while it may be difficult to take the difference in our house prices, just be glad most of us don't have put in the hard yards on a long commute.

It's small, but at least some comfort.

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