Housing market shows 'improvement'
The Northern Ireland housing market is showing further signs of improvement, a new survey has found.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said the price balance - which indicates whether average prices rise or fall - remained above zero over two consecutive months for the first time in six years.
It is only the third time since property prices went into freefall in July 2007 that the price balance has been positive.
RICS Northern Ireland housing spokesman Tom McClelland said: "There will be bumps along the way, but we are seeing an overall trend of improvement in the market that will continue, particularly at the lower end of the market.
"The stabilisation in prices is encouraging greater activity, albeit we are still some way off what would be considered healthy transaction volumes. Trading up is still constrained as people who bought in the last 10 years have not been able to build inflation equity."
The majority of respondents (90%) said prices had remained the same in the three months to the end of June, with a further 7% reporting a rise and 3% noting a fall. The only other positive readings were in March 2013 when the price balance was nine and June 2013 when it was 21.
The RICS report also found that offers and inquiries on properties had increased in the May, June, July period. Predictions for the number of transaction expectations were also upbeat, with 22% forecasting a rise during August.
Keith Mitchell, managing director of Belfast-based Templeton Robinson, said the findings were encouraging.
"There is still the perception that it is a buyer's market and that may still be true in the rural areas, but the tide is changing," he said.
"It is encouraging but I think what we are seeing is the natural return to home ownership, but that is very much based on price. The market is functioning very well for properties up to half a million pounds and there are more people wanting to buy."