Northern Ireland house sales rose last month, property experts claimed today.
The latest figures from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors study, sponsored by Ulster Bank, show 25% of the profession reported a rise in property transactions in February.
And local surveyors have predicted that house sales should enjoy an further boost of up to 75% in the next three months.
The RICS figures back up anecdotal evidence from estate agents that buyers are returning to the province’s previously beleaguered marketplace.
Property prices, however, are still down with 64% of the profession noting values dropping in the last three months up until February.
But increased sales are expected to lead to prices bottoming out, according to the RICS.
Tom McClelland, RICS Northern Ireland housing spokesman, said: “The rise in interest and activity in the local housing market reflects the lower price levels and the significant cuts in interest rates.
“The expectation of a continued increase in transactions suggests that there is a growing belief that prices may be near to bottoming out. RICS certainly believes that this is the case in some areas and some sectors of the market.”
Developers offering deferred equity schemes, incentives and price cuts have proved successful with buyers responding to deals, said to Mr McClelland.
Derek Wilson, head of mortgages at Ulster Bank, said ‘confidence’ in the local housing market is ‘clearly improving’.
Mr Wilson added: “Now that interest rates are at an all time low, potential buyers will be watching the market closely, ready to make their move when they fell the time is right.”
These comments echo the sentiments of the National Association of Estate Agents which gave a guarded welcome to the lowering of interest rates.
Peter Bolton King, NAEA chief executive, said: “NAEA figures show that there is a huge demand for property from first time buyers, who are increasingly visiting estate agents, registering their interest and searching for property.”
He added, however: “These figures demonstrate that they are being frustrated at the final hurdle because lenders are not making mortgages available.”
Meanwhile, Simon Brien, of BTW Cairns, said house sales are on the up. “It is encouraging to see activity in the market during autumn since 2008, not only in levels of enquiries to the office and viewings, but also in actual agreed sales,” he said.