Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland housing boost as sales soar by 21% in a year

By Joanne Sweeney

Northern Ireland's house sales volume have increased by 21% over the same quarter last year but there is an east-west disparity in the improvement enjoyed by householders and estate agents.

Houses prices also rose by 7% over the 12 months from July to September 2013.

Figures from the residential property index released yesterday by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency (NISRA) showed a steady and continuing return in the market since the pre-recession boom days.

They showed that the average house sale for quarter three of this year was £107,855.

While Belfast enjoyed a 10% increase in prices over the last year, the west and south only saw a 5% increase.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said that while the number of house sales have been rising steadily over the last three years, it was still 52% lower than the "freak peak" recorded in 2006/7.

He added: "A return to this 'freak peak' is neither expected nor desired.

"Instead, a return to more 'normal' levels of activity that we would have seen around 2005 (29,000 house sales) would be desirable.

"This is almost a third above where transactions currently are.

"Further growth in house prices, and more importantly transactions, are expected in the year ahead."

The return to steady growth was confirmed by Beth Robinson of Templeton Robinson estate agency who estimates that house sales of over £1m now represents 3% of their market.

"There is a demand for people looking for houses costing £1-2m for the first time since 2007. We have a return to a sensible, stable, realistically priced market," she said.

North Down estate agent John Minnis believes homeowners are now selling with increased confidence.

"There's a lot of positivity in the market, but it's all very Belfast-centric.

"As soon as prices begin to rise in Belfast, there's a ripple effect to outlying areas," he said.

Mark Pollock, partner of McAfee Properties in Coleraine, added that the area had experienced a 10% rise over the year, increasing to 12-15% for smaller terraced houses.

"The market has definitely improved. The downside is that we are seeing more young professionals moving out of Coleraine in search of employment," he said.

Gary Best of Best Property services in Newry said: "I'm surprised at the 21% increase in volume. We would have seen that volume from 2012-2013 but there's a lessening in what is coming on. There's not as much choice as there was a year ago."

Robert Pollock of Pollock Estate agents in Omagh agreed and added: "The 21% increase in sales seems a bit high for this area. It might relate to houses in the lower market at £100,000 but we have a lower volume for houses over £200,000".

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