There is fresh evidence that a recovery in the Northern Ireland housing market is under way.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said its latest market survey for the province was more positive that at any stage since July 2007.
The monthly survey sponsored by the Ulster Bank pointed to levels of agreed sales continuing to rise and an ongoing stabilisation of prices.
The bank's mortgage chief said it believes the vast majority of the house price “correction” had now been completed.
Institution housing spokesman Tom McClelland said: “The RICS housing market survey has been reporting increasing transaction volumes for some months now and this has since been reinforced by other surveys of the local market.”
However he cautioned: “Whilst encouraging, this should be kept in perspective, as this has been from very low levels. There is still some way to go before they reach what would generally be considered normal.”
The survey indicated that estate agents expect sales levels to increase again in the next three months.
“It will be interesting to see whether this is boosted by a rush to purchase before stamp duty threshold is due to return to £125,000 from £175,000 at the year end,” said Mr McClelland.
He added: “With regard to prices, this latest data adds to growing evidence that prices have been stabilising. Surveyors expect this trend to continue in the months ahead.”
But he said it was important to point out that there were large variations in the market and different property types and different areas may have had significantly varying experiences.
In the longer term there were a number of other factors which could hit the market, including the reduction in government spending and potentially toxic asset sales by the Irish government's NAMA, he warned.
The net balance of surveyors reporting that agreed sales increased in the last three months was 70%, up from 45% the previous month.
The net balance reporting sales would rise rather than fall in the next three months was 50%.
Meanwhile the survey's price balance improved to -18 from -20 and -45 in the previous two surveys. In mid 2007 it was at zero and fell to -90 before starting the climb back.
The price balance is achieved by combining the agents why say prices were rising, those — the vast majority — who said they were stable — and the small number who said they were still falling.
The price expectation balance, at 10%, is at its most optimistic since June 2007.