Belfast Telegraph

Housing market looks set to strengthen in 2010

By Symon Ross

The cold weather did not completely freeze out activity in the Northern Ireland housing market in January, according to a new survey released today.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that while the market remains subdued, a net balance of 8% of chartered surveyors reported rising activity, compared to a net balance of -18 in December. A positive reading means more of those surveyed giving a positive answer than those who gave a negative one.

Prices continued to slide for a 29th consecutive month with the price balance remaining negative at -24.

While prices in Northern Ireland have fallen significantly from their peak in 2007, homebuying activity remains low as prospective buyers find it more difficult to come up with deposits and secure mortgages. However, the survey showed there was optimism that prices will remain broadly flat in the months ahead, with 84% of respondents expecting no rise or fall in values during February, March and April.

Chartered surveyors are also reasonably optimistic about market activity, with a net balance of 58% expecting transactions to increase in the three months ahead. RICS Northern Ireland spokesman, Tom McClelland, said: “There is an expectation prices will be flat, however there are risks and there will be variations. The more important story is the number of house sales going through to completion. Chartered surveyors are reporting increasing enquiries and foresee greater movement in the market during the months ahead.”

Derek Wilson of Ulster Bank, which sponsors the survey, added: “As Northern Ireland moves away from what were completely abnormal market conditions, it is only natural that people who want to purchase a home will become more active in the market. Increasing market activity during 2010 is therefore a reasonable expectation.”

Belfast Telegraph