House prices in Northern Ireland up by just 0.3% - lowest in UK
Northern Ireland has witnessed the lowest house price rises in the whole of the UK, new figures have revealed.
An increase of just 0.3% in the last year puts us at the bottom of the growth table, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Figures for March show that an average home in Northern Ireland is now worth £132,000 – which is just half the average for the rest of the UK.
And properties here are still only worth half of what they were at the height of the boom market in 2007.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the subdued nature of the local housing market wasn't necessarily bad news.
"We want stability and if we're just having modest price increases then that's fair enough," he said, adding that the overall situation was positive.
"As far as first-time buyers are concerned, they would like to see prices remain flat; they don't want to see house prices rise," he said.
"Northern Ireland's low house prices relative to other UK regions is one of its strongest selling points as far as attracting individuals back in to Northern Ireland to live and work.
"We need to capitalise and embrace the positives that low house prices actually have in terms of attracting inward investment and getting people to avail of jobs here."
House prices lifted by 8.0% in the 12 months to March as property values continue to increase strongly across most of the UK, where the average house price is now £252,000.
The 0.5% fall in average UK house prices between February and March marks the first time property values have fallen month-on-month in just over a year.
The ONS figures come amid mounting concerns about the rapid pace of house price growth in parts of the UK and Bank of England governor Mark Carney has already warned that the property market remains the biggest threat to the economy.
During the 12 months to March, house prices saw a typical increase of 8.5% in England to reach £263,000, 4.9% in Wales to reach £164,000, 0.8% in Scotland to reach £181,000 and 0.3% in Northern Ireland to reach £132,000.
Financial Director at CPS Property, Neil Conlon, said Northern Ireland continued to lag behind the rest of the UK in terms of growth.
"The situation is beginning to improve, albeit slowly, but we have been heartened by an increase in the number of transactions that have been taking place in the local housing market and that's a trend we're hoping to sustain," he said.
"This recovery is being driven by first-time buyers because many of the people who bought in 2006 and 2007 haven't been able to move because of the subsequent crash in property values."
The ONS figures were published as a report from think-tank the Resolution Foundation suggested that around one in six mortgage-holders in Northern Ireland risk being "imprisoned" by borrowing deals likely to make their repayments unaffordable amid predicted interest rate rises over the next four years.
The study predicts that around 50,000 vulnerable households here will suffer from a limited ability to switch to a better deal and face the likelihood of their monthly repayments eating up at least a third of their disposable income.
Toughened mortgage lending rules recently came into force, meaning that mortgage applicants now face longer and more probing questions about their spending habits, to check that they can not only afford their repayments now but also when interest rates rise.