Belfast Telegraph

Renewed optimism as house prices rise again

By Claire McNeilly

House prices in Northern Ireland continued to rise in April for an 11th consecutive month, industry experts have said.

Data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) revealed that 64% of local respondents said that prices rose, with 72% saying that they were higher in the period, 19% saying that they were the same, and 9% saying that they were lower.

The news follows a recent publication by the Department for Social Development (DSD), which said the average price of all property here is now £99,000 – which is still half of what it was at the height of the market in 2007.

All regions of the UK recorded strongly positive price balances for April, according to the latest RICS and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey. Only two of the other 12 regions – South East England and East Anglia – recorded a stronger price balance than Northern Ireland.

RICS Northern Ireland spokesman Samuel Dickey said he expected the upward trend to continue into the summer.

"April is traditionally a busy month for the housing market, and as we move into May and June, the expectation is that prices will continue to rise and that transaction volumes will increase," he said.

"This is being driven by improvements in the wider economy and confidence that the housing market downturn is behind us, as well as seasonal factors."

Mr Dickey said there remained significant disparities between the distressed sales market and the vendor sales market.

"Distressed sales, through asset managers and fixed charge receivers, are all priced to sell," he said. "On the other hand, vendors tend to be more inclined to hold out for their own idea of value, which may not match what the market is prepared, or able to pay."

Derek Wilson, head of lending products at Ulster Bank, said mortgage approval levels had doubled since the same period last year.

Northern Ireland underwent its biggest boom in house sales in six years at the end of 2013, according to the DSD's latest Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin.

Official statistics published last month showed 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.

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.

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.

BACKGROUND

Earlier this month figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that house prices in Northern Ireland were still half of what they were during the economic boom. Danske Bank chief economist Angela McGowan said: "When it comes to house inflation, though, the picture is definitely no longer one of falling prices. 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."

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