House prices to increase faster than rest of UK, predict experts
The increase in house prices in Northern Ireland is expected to continue this year with experts saying values here will increase quicker than anywhere else in the UK.
The price of a typical property is predicted to rise by 4% in 2015 - above the 3% average for England, Scotland and Wales, according to the latest RICS and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey.
The survey suggests that demand in the local housing market remains relatively robust, with new buyer enquiries continuing to rise at a faster rate than new instructions from those selling - indicating that there is a continuing lack of supply. According to the report, December was the nineteenth consecutive month of price increases.
The Government's overhaul of stamp duty in December has prompted expectations of an increase in transactions and prices.
The move will result in a cut in stamp duty for the vast majority liable to pay it, potentially encouraging more people to buy and sell homes.
RICS Northern Ireland spokesman Samuel Dickey said: "The local housing market is expected to benefit from the reform of stamp duty, with the large majority of home buyers here paying less of the tax.
"This will help encourage activity. In terms of prices, the gap between demand and supply is creating upward pressure.
"However, the slowing economic recovery and public spending environment will present challenges for the market.
"Overall, RICS expects prices to rise on average 4% this year, a moderation in growth relative to 2014."
According to the Office for National Statistics, house prices in Northern Ireland reportedly soared by almost 12% last year.
But experts have warned of stark discrepancies across the region.
Property prices here recorded their biggest year-on-year upswing since 2007 in November, ONS said.
Derek Wilson, Head of Lending Products at Ulster Bank, said: "Ulster Bank saw mortgage demand remain strong in the final quarter of 2014, and we expect that to continue into this year, particularly from the home-mover and first-time buyer segments.
"We have a range of mortgage options available at historically low levels and we remain committed to lending to all sectors of the market."
House prices in Northern Ireland have some way to recover to reach their previous peak levels, recorded in August 2007.
Property values are still 43% below their pre-financial crisis peak, having tumbled sharply as the downturn set in.
And experts do not believe homeowners here are set to see their properties reach those record values in the near future, possibly never.
Earlier this week estate agents said demand had pushed up property prices.
But they said the vast majority of sizeable increases here were restricted to so-called hotspots, such as south Belfast and north Down.
Mark Leinster from Simon Brien Residential said there were still substantial regional differences in housing price increases.
A tale of two homes...
Both are luxurious four-bedroom detached homes with similar asking prices.
But while one has been on the market for more than 18 months despite a drop in price of £25,500, the other was snapped up within days - and it hasn't even been built yet.
Five of eight new-builds on the Old Saintfield Road, Belfast, have already been agreed even though the properties won't be finished until August.
Asking prices for the houses, being sold by Ulster Property Sales, began at £345,000, rising to £375,000.
Bids were received within days of them being publicised.
Earlier this week it was revealed house sales across Northern Ireland rose by almost 12% in the year until November.
Estate agents say that so-called property hotspots such as greater Belfast had pushed the average prices up considerably.
By contrast a sprawling four-bedroom home in Strangford, Co Down, has been on the market since May 2013. The stunning detached house was previously the home of late BBC presenter David Dunseith.
The property dates back to the early 19th century and was built by the Wards of Castle Ward.
In March last year the price was cut from £375,000 to £349,500.