Belfast Telegraph

House prices still falling as market remains challenging

By Margaret Canning

House prices are continuing to fall and the market remains "challenging", a major monthly survey said yesterday.

October was the 63rd month in succession of falling house prices in Northern Ireland, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' (RICS) research.

Nearly three-quarters of chartered surveyors and estate agents told their professional body that prices had fallen in August, September and October - and that they had not reported falling prices in such high numbers since October 2008, according to RICS.

Only 29% of respondents said prices had been steady, and none said that prices had gone up.

However, RICS said the price falls were slight, and around 85% were no more than 2%. Most surveyors told RICS they expected the falls to continue.

The average house price has fallen from around £240,400 at the peak of the boom in 2007 to £139,600.

Richard McCulloch, an estate agent with Stanley Best in Magherafelt, said the gloomy findings were no surprise. "I think that reality has set in among everybody in the housing market that the trend is still downward, and I expect that the next report will still be negative. There is no real sight of it going positive in the short to medium term."

A three-bedroomed semi in his area would now fetch between £90,000 and £100,000, he said.

"That seems affordable for two people in employment but whenever there's still uncertainty over jobs and the economy not showing real signs of improvement, people aren't taking that leap of faith into home ownership and are choosing to rent.

"The rental market is buoyant but the resale market is very, very depressed."

Garry Best of Best Property Services in Newry said two markets had emerged in his area.

"Anything under £100,000 is selling well and doesn't appear to be dropping in price because there is good enough demand from investors, due to a buoyant retail market, and some first-time buyers.

"But at around £200,000 and above prices are still dropping."

Tom McClelland, the body's housing spokesman, said the market was varied.

"We aren't seeing a uniform picture, and some areas - particularly greater Belfast - and property types will be having better experiences than others.

"But in such a difficult economic environment, it is inevitable that overall the housing market will continue to struggle."