Belfast Telegraph

Estate agents 'optimistic' despite fall in house prices

By Jamie Grierson and Heather McGarrigle

News of a drop in UK house prices last month hasn't dented optimism among Northern Ireland's estate agents.

Halifax reported yesterday that the average price of a house in the UK dropped 1.2% last month, ending three months of price rises.

The average price of a house fell month-on-month to £161,743 in August, although the "more reliable" quarterly change showed a 1% rise.

Patrick Palmer of Belfast estate agency Templeton Robinson said prices in Northern Ireland were becoming more "realistic" and said sellers were now more open to price negotiation than during the property boom.

He said: "If prices go down, transactions inevitably increase - we are quite busy at the moment.

"The market is still tight but there are deals out there; there's never been a better time to buy."

Michael Rodgers of Rodgers and Browne estate agency in Holywood said the results indicated a move towards stability for the UK as a whole and that Northern Ireland was reflecting this trend.

Mr Rodgers said: "It may take some time but I believe in the next six to twelve months, the market will start to come back.

"It will be slow, steady, predictable growth, but everyone in the property industry would probably agree that this is the ideal situation. When prices are racing up, nobody knows where they stand."

The Halifax findings are in line with fellow lender Nationwide, which saw prices drop 0.6% in August but reassured the decline did not change a "relatively stable" picture.

UK house prices peaked at £168,593 in April 2010 and fell to £160,393 in April this year before moving back up to £163,765 in July.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the figures reinforced the belief that house prices would come down over the coming months.

IHS forecasts prices falling by around 5% by mid-2012.

Mr Archer said: "We suspect that squeezed purchasing power, tightening fiscal policy, a softening labour market and persistent serious concerns over the economic outlook will limit potential buyers and weigh down on house prices."

The fall in prices comes as activity in the housing market remains low.