Northern Ireland house sales surge to six year high
Northern Ireland underwent its biggest boom in house sales in six years at the end of 2013.
Official statistics have shown there were almost 5,000 residential property sales in the last three months of last year.
Prices rose by an average of 4% in 2013, but growth slowed towards the end of the year, according to the latest Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin.
The Department of Social Development, which produces the quarterly bulletin, said the average price, covering all types of properties, is now £99,000 – which is still half of what it was at the height of the market in 2007.
The number of new dwelling starts was 918, a decrease of 17% on the previous quarter and 35% down on the same quarter in 2012.
The total number of new house completions was 2,045, similar to the previous quarter, but a drop of 15% on the same quarter in 2012.
Meanwhile, 4,667 households declared themselves homeless to the Housing Executive between October and December 2013, representing a decrease of 165, or 3%, on the previous quarter.
The majority of those who said they were homeless cited a house- sharing breakdown or family dispute as the cause.
Among its other findings, the bulletin revealed that from July to December last year residential property prices moved little, but when compared with the start of 2013, property prices had risen over the course of the year by 4%.
During the fourth quarter of 2013 there were 4,827 house sales, which represents a startling 28% increase on the number sold in the same period in 2012 and is the highest number of quarterly sales recorded here since 2007.
Meanwhile, figures released by the Central Statistics Office on the same day showed that house prices in the Republic of Ireland had declined by 0.7% month-on-month in March, although they were still 7.8% higher than a year earlier.
Danske Bank Chief Economist Angela McGowan said the local housing market was on a sustainable upwards curve.
"When it comes to house inflation the picture is definitely no longer one of falling prices," she said.
"The latest ONS data also revealed this week that house prices had annual inflation levels of 9.7% in England, 5.3% in Wales, 2.4% in Scotland and 2.8% in Northern Ireland.
"A quick glance tells us that Northern Ireland house price rises look much more sustainable than those observed in London and the South East," she added.
Raymond Mulligan, director of Johnston Campbell, Northern Ireland's biggest independent financial advisors, said local surveys suggest that the average price of a house in Northern Ireland is between £133,000 and £135,000. "At the high-end of the market Belfast is the only winner and house transaction activity is patchy across Northern Ireland with less happening west of the River Bann," he said.