Belfast Telegraph

House prices rise: Is Northern Ireland property market turning a corner?

By David Elliott

House prices in Northern Ireland have seen growth for the first time in more than five years according to official figures, in further signs that the market is turning a corner.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show the average price of a house here climbed by 1.9% in the 12 months to the end of May, the first price increase since 2008. The news will come as welcome relief to Northern Ireland's home owners who have seen prices fall well over 55% since that period amid a dearth of credit and rising unemployment.

And after years of taking the title of the worst performing UK region, Northern Ireland swept to second place, performing better than Wales, where prices climbed 0.6%, and Scotland, where prices climbed 0.8%.

England took the top spot with price rises of 3.1%, driven mostly by the white hot London market which climbed over 6%. But while the figures breathe life into a beleaguered sector, the fact the ONS data doesn't include distressed sales or those sold through auction means a small note of caution needs to be sounded.

Still, estate agents said the data reflects what they've already been seeing in the market.

"As agents we have know that more positive statistics were on their way," Will Miscampbell, partner at Fetherston Clements in Belfast said. "Transaction levels have been rising steadily for some time now and increasingly at the moment we are finding properties realising and indeed exceeding their asking prices."

He said stability in the housing market was beneficial for the economy as a whole.

"The huge rises in value and subsequent falls that have been so widely reported on over recent years appear to be largely behind us.

"Traditionally the housing market was always very stable in Northern Ireland and a return to that stability with house prices rising with or slightly higher that inflation with be postive for the wider economy here."

Beth Templeton, senior partner at Templeton Robinson, said the big fall in prices over the last few years has made the housing market more affordable.

"It makes sense, particular for firsttime buyers, to get back on the property ladder."

She said asking prices are being surpassed. "We've had several properties that have made 30% over the asking price. We're at a realistic level but there are certain properties that look to be good value and they're attracting bids."

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