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Experts urge calm as Northern Ireland house prices fall for first time since 2013


Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey

House prices have fallen across Northern Ireland for the first time in four years, with declines of up to 3% in some areas over recent months.

The latest Northern Ireland House Price Index shows overall prices here dropped by 0.8% between the last quarter of 2016 and the first three months of this year.

It is the first time prices have slumped here since the start of 2013.

The average cost of a home is now £124,007.

One economist said the quarterly fall was a "blip" as prices in the first quarter were 4.3% up on the same period last year.

A total of 4,379 properties sold during the first quarter of the year.

The majority of council areas showed a decrease in prices quarter-on-quarter.

However, the cost of buying a home increased in Armagh city, Banbridge and Craigavon, Derry city and Strabane, Mid Ulster, and Newry, Mourne and Down.

The biggest fall was recorded in Mid and East Antrim, with prices dropping by 3.1%. Prices in Belfast dropped by 2.3%, falling to an average of £115,686.

Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said: "Following an unprecedented house price correction (-57%) between Q3 2007 and Q1 2013, Northern Ireland house prices have been on the rise.

"However, the latest figures for Q1 2017 reveal the first quarterly decline in four years, a period which witnessed a 28% cumulative rise in house prices.

"Northern Ireland's standardised house price fell by 0.8% to £124,007 in the first quarter. This follows a marginal rise in Q4 2016.

"Despite this decline, local house prices are still 4.3% above the corresponding period a year ago. This was broadly in line with the UK average and compares with an annual average of 6.5% for 2016."

He said the average house price remained 45% below the boom period in the third quarter of 2007.

Across Northern Ireland, semi-detached properties were the only type of homes not to post quarterly falls in the first three months of the year.

It was apartments that saw the steepest quarterly drop, down by 4.5%. That was followed by 0.7% for terrace properties and 0.6% for detached.

"The overall fall in house prices conceals a divergence between new dwellings and second-hand or existing homes," Mr Ramsey said.

"New dwellings fell by 4.5% in Q1 2017, but this followed an increase of one-third in just over three years. Meanwhile, prices of the existing or resale market have been broadly flat for the last two quarters, rising by 0.2% in the latest survey."

He said Northern Ireland's annual rate of house price growth had halved from 8.7% at the end of 2014, to 4.3% at the start of 2017.