The latest University of Ulster house price index has recorded improvements in the Northern Ireland housing market, hinting at a tentative recovery.
The survey covered 1,407 open market transactions from a network of estate agents, up more than 50% on the same period in 2012.
A higher proportion of sales of lower priced properties such as terraced or town houses in the survey brought the headline “average” price of a property down to £131,128 but, taking account of the mix of housing types covered in the survey, the report recorded a weighted increase in house prices of 1.9% over a year.
The report cautioned that performance across Northern Ireland was still highly variable and the market remained vulnerable to shocks.
The report’s authors - Professor Alastair Adair, Professor Stanley McGreal, Dr David McIlhatton and Dr John McCord - said: “The first quarter survey provides further support to the argument that the housing market is showing tentative signs of recovery, with the volume of transactions up again this quarter and with a weighted rate of increase of 1.9% in the aggregate market compared to the same quarter in 2012.
“However, it is also apparent that the first three months of the year were difficult in many segments of the housing market because of factors such as the weather.”
The survey showed a significant increase in the percentage of properties within lower price bands. Nearly three quarters of the total sample sold at or below £150,000, with 45% of the total going at or below £100,000.
In addition, 30% of sales in the survey were terrace/townhouses while the representation of semi-detached homes was also higher at 28%.
Alan Bridle, UK Economist at Bank of Ireland UK, said: “Higher demand from both first time buyers at the new price points coupled with investors attracted by rental yields on some properties are reported as key drivers of increased activity, particularly in the Belfast market.
“Some modest loosening in the mortgage market, partly as a result of the UK Funding for Lending Scheme, and a perception that prices may have bottomed in the more urban locations may also be positive influences. Seasonal trends should be supportive of higher sales volumes over the next few months."
The Housing Executive’s Head of Research, Joe Frey, said: “Further signs of a stabilising housing market are to be welcomed, but economic fundamentals in Northern Ireland remain weak, suggesting that any upturn in the market is some way off.”
There were relatively wide variations in price changes across the main property types – with four types increasing over a year but the other two declining.
The strongest performance was for detached houses, up 6.4% over a year to an average of £215,261. Detached bungalows increased by 3.1% to £145,786 while terraced/townhouses were up 5.5% to an average of £85,351 and the apartment sector saw prices rise by 2.8% to an average of £102,959.
In contrast, semi-detached bungalows fell 11.5% to £103,180 and semi-detached houses dropped by 5.3% to £124,605.
Prices were still variable at regional level trends, with some parts of Northern Ireland showing signs of uplift while others experienced significant falls.
In Belfast the volume of sales recorded was up, although the overall price of £135,385 was lower – reflecting a high concentration of terraced/townhouse and apartments in the mix of sales
South Belfast remained the highest priced area in Northern Ireland while North Belfast was the least expensive.
Average house price by region Q1 2013
Quarter 1 2013
Northern Ireland - All
Mid and South Down