House sales up but prices still pressured
House prices are likely to fall further in 2013 even if more homes are being sold, a survey of estate agents and surveyors has found.
The latest research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Northern Ireland shows most members think transactions were up in November, December and January.
Slightly over half thought transactions would keep going up over the next three months.
But despite the increase in business, slightly over 90% said they thought prices had either fallen (38%) or stayed the same (54%) over the same three months.
Tom McCleland, the spokesman for RICS in Northern Ireland, said: "We will see some seasonal adjustments in the market, but the overall pattern will remain largely the same for the foreseeable due to the challenging micro and macro-economic conditions.
"Average prices will likely edge lower, with transaction volumes likely to rise modestly. However, it is not a uniform picture and some areas and property types will have different experiences."
Two estate agents in different parts of the province said sales were happening where sellers had priced their homes 'realistically'.
Garry Best of Best Property Services in Newry said: "The last three months have been fairly buoyant and active, but it's still very much the investors and first-time buyers that are responsible. There is a level of volume and transaction turnover that we didn't have 12 months earlier.
"I don't debate what RICS is saying about there being more price drops but I would think that it's more the higher-priced property, which is still in over-supply and not strong enough demand."
Sellers had to "fall in line with where the market is" and set realistic prices, he said.
There have been consecutive house price falls for the past six years after peaking at £240,400 in the summer of 2007.
According to a Nationwide house price survey, average prices in Northern Ireland were around £104,282 in the last quarter of 2012.
Keith Mitchell from Templeton Robinson estate agents in south Belfast said enquiries in January were up 48% on the year before.
"Overall we have found things have been improving consistently for the last eight months."
Where people had factored in a 50% fall on values since 2007 in their asking price, houses were selling.
"The greater Belfast area has itself stabilised with a fair degree of demand and if priced well, bidding starts. People are chasing value," he said.
Tim Martin, an estate agent in Comber, Co Down, said sales had been increasing since June of last year. He said he had also sold a number of building sites in recent months.