Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

£2.5bn of negative equity is a heavy debt

Northern Ireland's housing market – or rather, the state it's in – is a touchy subject.

And if you're looking for a health report on the current situation, it all depends who you ask.

A series of reports last week suggested we are on the road to recovery.

First-time buyers are snapping up properties and prices have – at long last – fallen to comparatively affordable levels.

There may well be less money about than in the boom before the 2007 property crash, but that hasn't put the brakes on buying or dissuaded people from moving.

Some estate agents have said the market is now at its best for the first time since the fall and demand is outstripping supply.

But there are other factors that paint a less a rosy picture and simply cannot be ignored.

Based on figures provided by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, it is estimated that householders here are now sitting on £2.5bn worth of negative equity.

Those who bought at the height of the boom are hardest hit, with many owing six-figure sums.

With such a significant swathe of homeowners unable to sell, the property market has been paralysed to a certain extent.

Salary freezes and job losses have added to the mountain of debt, with many unable to see a way out of the financial abyss.

And, in what is being seen as a final act of desperation, a number have been advertising their homes for sales on internet sites.

Meanwhile, the problem of repossessions continues unabated with a growing number of people seeking advice on mortgage debt.

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