Belfast Telegraph

Mortgage market thriving as first-time buyers eye up more expensive properties

By John Mulgrew

The number of first-time buyers in Northern Ireland has risen by 6%, new figures show. In Northern Ireland, home buyers borrowed £410m for house purchase, up 2% quarter-on-quarter and 5% year-on-year.

And they took out 3,800 loans, up 6% compared to the previous quarter and 3% on the fourth quarter 2015, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML).

Paddy Turley of estate agency UPS, which has 12 branches, told the Belfast Telegraph: "What we are seeing in the first-time buyer market, is people are very knowledgeable. They know what they can afford and what they can spend.

"We've moved on since 2007. They are now engaged with mortgage advisers, which is great."

Mr Turley said more first-time buyers were making larger house purchases as their initial foray into ownership - with a house on Ravenhill Road in east Belfast at £160,000 a typical purchase. But some first-time buyers in Belfast could be spending up to £250,000, with other regions having a lower top-end value.

"The first-time buyers have spoken to mortgage advisers, and they know their stuff. They know the market, and what else is in the area. That end of the market is thriving. We have taken our mortgage adviser along with us to viewings because there is so much first-time buyer activity.

"With that demand, you want more supply."

He said popular regions in Belfast included south Belfast areas such as Stranmillis and Rosetta, as well as Ballyhackamore in the east of the city.

"With the rental market, people do want to own their own home. It's fine for a period of time, but they want to own their own home.

"When people are renting a property, when they are re-signing a lease, they are thinking, am I paying someone else's mortgage?"

First-time buyers here borrowed £95,000 on average, CML said - that was up from £93,500 in 2015.

Niall Harkin, head of mortgage intermediary business Danske Bank, said: "This survey paints a generally upbeat picture, with confirmation that mortgage activity in Northern Ireland increased last year and lending rose in the fourth quarter at a time when overall lending across the UK faded.

"While consumer confidence in Northern Ireland fell in quarter four, this was not reflected in mortgage activity.

"The official NI Residential House Price Index showed house prices in Northern Ireland rose by 6% in 2016 and it is clear we are also experiencing growth in the mortgage market.

"That growth was relatively steady throughout 2016, driven by a still buoyant first time buyer market.

"Overall, the CML's Q4 figures suggest the market in Northern Ireland is healthy and with affordability comparing favourably to the UK average, there is capacity for further growth in the market in 2017."

And Derek Wilson, CML Northern Ireland chairman, said:

"The UK overall saw lending fall in the fourth quarter, but in Northern Ireland lending rose, led by first-time buyers. 2016 was the strongest year for house purchase lending since 2007.

"Affordability compares favourably with the UK as a whole, and we anticipate a steady market in 2017."

Belfast Telegraph