Belfast Telegraph

House sales rise for a third month as slump 'starts to ease'

By Helen Carson

Northern Ireland house sales are up for the third month in a row despite ongoing job losses in the local economy, it was claimed today.

The latest figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors show the local housing market is improving with house transactions up last month.

There was an almost unanimous response from surveyors who reported that house sales have increased in the past three months.

In addition a further two-thirds of the property professionals said they expect sales to continue to rise for another three months.

The RICS house report, sponsored by Ulster Bank, also revealed falling property prices had decreased since the March study.

Despite the upbeat message, which also pointed to more buyer inquiries, Northern Ireland housing spokesman Tom McClelland urged caution and said the improving situation should be kept in perspective.

“These are improvements from historically depressed conditions and we are probably still some way off what would be considered a healthy housing market,” said Mr McClelland.

“The fact is that while transaction levels are increasing they still have some way to go, and prices in some sectors of the market might have further to correct. The recovery of the local housing market will also continue to be tempered by rising levels of job losses.”

He added, however: “I think it is certainly fair to say that the worst of the housing downturn is behind us and, in general terms, things will continue to improve as the year goes on.”

Meanwhile Derek Wilson, head of mortgages at Ulster Bank, said: “Confidence in the outlook is clearly improving due to a number of factors, including lower interest rates and more affordable asking prices.

“It also tallies with our own business levels which show an increase in mortgage applications of 70% since February, and mortgage offers in April 2009 close to levels of April 2007.”

Belfast Telegraph