Belfast Telegraph

House prices up 12% here, but picture is patchy one in Northern Ireland

Parts of Belfast and Down outstrip values elsewhere

By Chris Kilpatrick

House prices in Northern Ireland reportedly soared by almost 12% last year - but experts have warned of stark discrepancies across the region.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), property prices here recorded their biggest year-on-year upswing for seven years in November - and were the biggest increases of the four UK regions.

Values in Northern Ireland increased by 11.7% in the year until November to reach an average of £147,000, marking the highest annual increase seen since December 2007, the ONS said.

The reported increase here compared to an average of 10% across the UK.

House price annual inflation was 10.4% in England, 3.1% in Wales and 4.4% in Scotland.

Leading estate agents last night 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.

"Last year was a good year, there's no doubt about it," he said.

"Right from the lower end of the market, filtering up to higher-end properties which were starting to move.

"It is still very area-sensitive. It's still greater Belfast, north Down, pockets here and there, but the peripheral market I think is still quite sticky.

"If you are taking a house in some other areas, say Portadown or Craigavon for argument's sake, house prices there have not risen by that amount.

"Certainly in and around south Belfast, north Down, things have been very active right from the lower end to the more expensive houses."

Will Liddell, of Templeton Robinson, agreed with the notion of a two-tier system.

"Confidence has returned in the marketplace over the past 12 months and there's a bigger demand than supply," Mr Liddell said.

"Hence, you are seeing situations where house prices are moving up, even from asking prices, in south, east and south-east Belfast.

"The market is moving well but once you get out into more rural areas it is different.

"There is probably a bigger supply than there is demand.

"I would say there is even a discrepancy across Belfast.

"It's a lot stronger in areas people are wanting to be in, close to the city centre, close to schools and everything else."

One estate agent said three-bedroom properties in Rosetta Drive were attracting offers of around £230,000 compared to £185,000 two years ago.

A modernised townhouse on the Ravenhill Road recently sold for £350,000 - £40,000 above the asking price.

In 2012, it was valued in the region of £275,000.

Property values are still 43% below their pre-financial crisis peak, having tumbled sharply as the financial downturn set in.

Economist John Simpson said a lack of new-build properties was to blame for the shortage of housing in desirable areas.

He said he wasn't surprised at the developing gulf between areas like greater Belfast and rural locations.

"We haven't been building enough," he said.

"We have created a housing shortage. We should be building at the very least 8,000 to 10,000 houses to deal with population increase. We are building closer to 6,000, which is at the higher end.

"The pick-up in employment and therefore the reduced fear of redundancy has probably been stronger in the Belfast area."

London property values have surged by 15.3% over the past year to reach £501,000 on average.

Factfile

England has highest average house prices: £283,000.

NI: £147,000

WALES: £171,000

SCOTLAND: £194,000

** London: London property values have surged by 15.3% over the last year to reach £501,000 on average

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