Northern Ireland house prices fell by a record 17.9% last year, it was revealed today.
The latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government put the province at the bottom of a national league table which shows UK house prices plummeted by 2.3% in December.
UK homes lost 10.2% of their value during the 12 months to the end of December, the first time the Department for Communities and Local Government has recorded a double-digit drop since it first started collecting the data in 2003.
The steep fall reported during December, however, contrasts with more recent figures on the property market which suggests buyers may be beginning to return.
And this is borne out with anecdotal evidence from both local estate agents and developers, who have recorded a rise in house sales of up to 100% in some cases.
The most recent Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors survey backs this up with fewer surveyors reporting house price falls — 51% in January 2009 compared to 91% last November.
Tom McClelland, RICS Northern Ireland housing spokesman, said viewings from potential buyers are also up: “The survey indicates that they (surveyors) are increasingly confident that transaction levels will grow in the months ahead — albeit from very low levels.”
The issue of property prices still remains contentious in Northern Ireland.
While housing experts agree new homes are as cheap as they are going to be, the resale market is still proving a sticking point for buyers and sellers alike.
Keith Mitchell, partner at Templeton Robinson, said: “The resale market is slowly catching up with the new reality, and every day online sites such as Property News provide proof of this with price reductions being emailed to agency databases.”
Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, Halifax, said house prices rose by 1.9% during January, although economists cautioned against reading too much into one month’s figures.