Belfast Telegraph

House prices

There is some good news on the home front, with Northern Ireland surveyors claiming house sales are on the up.

However, the most recent figures from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), point out that the province's property prices are still falling.

North Down estate agent John Minnis claimed: "We're at the bottom of the market now. If we're not, then we must be exceptionally close to it. It is no surprise that house prices are falling but we are talking about statistics from the last six months. House prices are now slowing down compared to the freefall of a year or more ago."

The RICS report also predicted that house sales here will rise for at least another three months.

And with last week's decision by the Bank of England to keep interest rates at rock-bottom, surely this is good news for beleaguered first-time buyers.

John Minnis added: "There has never been a better time to get on the property ladder.

"But the only way we will know if prices have bottomed out or not is when they start to go up again, and by then it will be too late to take advantage of the good value out there.

"The banks have started to lend again and both the Northern Bank and The Progressive have good products."

A cursory look at PropertyNews.com reveals two and three-bedroom terraces in north, west and east Belfast priced from £60,000-£70,000, which is a far cry from the £180,000 prices achieved at the height of the boom years.

There are also bargains to be had outside the city, with a three-bedroom, three-reception end terrace with an asking price of £72,500 in Antrim and a three-bedroom, one-reception end terrace in Lisburn for £74,950.

Mr Minnis also claimed interest rates will probably stay low: "I can't see them shooting up.

"The Government has to be very, very careful with interest rates as everything else has got so expensive."

RICS housing spokesman Tom McClelland pointed out, however, that a three-tier housing market now exists in Northern Ireland.

"There is evidence that keenly priced new-build homes are selling well. Repossessed properties priced at 2003/early-2004 levels are also selling. In terms of resales of existing stock, activity is limited, however. This is because these properties are often not priced to reflect market realities, with sellers unwilling to accept the price-drop that has taken place."

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