The slump in the Northern Ireland housing market is bottoming out and the first shoots of recovery are starting to emerge, surveyors claimed today.
While prices are set to fall further over the winter months there is evidence first time buyers are starting to re-engage with the market, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors latest housing survey.
Institute spokesman Tom McClelland said a major correction in the market has already taken place and prices are now coming within the reach of those wishing to take their first step on the property ladder.
"With the economy now entering recession and the number of redundancies rising, the reality is that a recovery of the housing market as a whole is still some way off," he said.
"However chartered surveyors are reporting a pick-up in interest amongst first time buyers with prices in that sector now cut significantly."
"On the whole, with average prices having fallen around 30 per cent to date, and more in some sectors of the market, the expectation is that steep price declines in the average house price will not take place in 2009.
"Housing surveys may continue to report steep declines in the months ahead, but the reality is that this is a filtering through of price falls that have already taken place."
The RICS survey, which is sponsored by the Ulster Bank, reported that the balance of chartered surveyors in Northern Ireland reporting price falls in the October survey was 93.3 per cent, compared to 90.8 per cent in September
Derek Wilson, Head of Mortgages at the Ulster Bank, said the Bank of England's decision last week to cut interest rates by 1.5% to 3% would have a positive impact.
"First time buyers have been offered significant support to help them onto the property ladder which is important for the housing market as a whole," he said.
"Home owners and purchasers stand to benefit from last week's significant interest rate cut which will also support greater purchasing activity in the market."