House prices 'falling steadily'
House prices in Northern Ireland have been falling steadily for three years, according to a new report.
Northern Ireland respondents to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) housing market survey, supported by Ulster Bank, have been reporting falling prices every month since August 2007.
In the latest survey of activity in August, 45% of respondents said that prices have been falling, while 55% said prices have remained the same. And no-one reported that prices were rising.
RICS housing spokesman Tom McClelland says that the scale of Northern Ireland's housing bubble has led to a big price correction.
He warned that the immediate challenge for the housing market was the scale of impending public spending cuts, which are predicted to hit the local economy hard.
"Prices have corrected significantly to date, and can only fall so far, but with people in our public sector-dependent economy fearing for job security, there remain clear risks," he said.
Mr McClelland said that prices rose significantly between 1995 and 2004, and, at that stage, economic fundamentals suggested price growth should have moderated.
But he said that, instead, the opposite had happened.
"This created a large price bubble between 2004 and 2007 that has been correcting," he said.
"There is certainly much more stability in the market now than there was when the house price correction was at its most intense.
"There is also evidence of a return of investors, despite the squeeze on housing benefit impacting on the private rented sector.
Mr McClelland continued: "There is also a clearly significant variation in the marketplace currently in terms of different areas and property types.
"However, unsurprisingly, the process of correction continues in areas where price growth was most out of kilter with fundamentals," he said.
Derek Wilson, head of lending products at Ulster Bank added that many buyers are "understandably circumspect" about purchase decisions, and should continue to make judgments based on their own circumstances.