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Property: House prices are up in Northern Ireland, but growth is slowing

By Joanne Fleming

Northern Ireland's housing market is continuing to notch up the strongest price gains in the UK, property surveyors say.

October saw prices increase here for the 17th month in a row, according to the latest Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey of its members.

However, the difference between those surveyors who say house prices have gone up and those who say they have gone down is at its lowest level since the beginning of the year.

In October 57% of surveyors noted a price rise, down from 63% in September.

And expectation of continued upward prices seems to be cooling, with just 37% believing prices will continue to rise, compared with 53% in September.

As for newly agreed sales, only 32% of surveyors said these increased in October.

RICS Northern Ireland spokesman Samuel Dickey said the rate of new buyer enquiries remained robust but there were indications the strongest price rises had passed.

"We are seeing some signs of the Northern Ireland housing market easing back from what have been very strong levels of price and sales increases," he said.

"In the local market, as the survey suggests, there is still an issue with supply, whilst buyer demand remains strong. This is creating the conditions for continuing price growth. Surveyors also expect sales to increase in the short-term.

"In the longer-term, it remains to be seen exactly what impact the significant pressure on the public finances here has on confidence, particularly when combined with the inevitability of interest rate rises by the Bank of England," Mr Dickey added.

"However, the likelihood is that growth will be more modest in 2015 than it has been this year."

Derek Wilson, head of lending products at Ulster Bank, said demand for its services remained strong.

"It is encouraging to see continuing house price and sales increases, albeit at a more moderate rate," he said.

"Our experience is that mortgage demand remains very strong from all sectors of the market, and application levels suggest a healthy pipeline of completions into 2015.

"We are currently approving nine out of 10 mortgage applications, and have seen a 40% increase in mortgage offers year-to-date."

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