Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland house prices on rise, 'but supply remains a problem'

By Margaret Canning

House prices in Northern Ireland continued to rise during February, according to a survey of estate agents published today. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said the number of sales was also up - and members expected the trend to continue.

The survey's key indicator on house price growth rose to its highest level in nearly a year, suggesting house price increases were picking up.

But the research found there was still a lack of new homes coming on to the market, and only a small number of surveyors received new instructions to sell houses during February.

Samuel Dickey, residential property spokesman for the RICS, said: "The Northern Ireland housing market has maintained some momentum into the second month of the year, with prices edging upwards and with reasonable demand evident.

"There is perhaps a hint that vendors are becoming more active as we move out of the winter months, but supply remains a challenge, and it remains to be seen if this eases in the months ahead."

The survey is produced with Ulster Bank, and its managing director of personal banking, Sean Murphy, said: "The Northern Ireland housing market has entered 2017 in growth mode, both in terms of prices and sales activity, and our own expectation at Ulster Bank is for strong mortgage demand, with the ongoing very low interest rate environment and people's desire to own their own home."

Writing in Business Telegraph earlier this week, Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said the housing market appeared to be levelling out after a peak in 2007, followed by a dramatic crash.

Mr Ramsey added: "We've been seeing some encouraging signs in the housing market across a range of indicators.

"Despite the ongoing recovery over the last few years, though, it is fair to say that this does not mean we are recovered. Indeed, a recovery in house prices and house-building back to the freak peaks of 2006/2007 is neither expected nor viewed as desirable.

At £125,500, up 5.7% on the year before - according to the Office for National Statistics - Northern Ireland had the lowest average house price of UK regions. "This is no bad thing if you are trying to coax workers back from the overpriced property markets of London and south-east England, RICS spokesman Mr Ramsey stressed.

"Currently, you can almost buy four average-priced homes in Northern Ireland for one in London."

"Alongside rising prices, residential transactions and mortgage activity are also on the rise. Last year saw Northern Ireland notch up its fifth consecutive year of mortgage growth.

"According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, there were 13,800 loans advanced for house purchase last year.

"This was a rise of more than 5% year-on-year, with last year's total representing the most mortgages advanced since 2007."

But he added mortgage volumes were still only at half the level of 10 years ago.

And while at 8,000, the number of first-time buyers reached a decade high, there were still 10,000 fewer in 2001.

Meanwhile, Ulster University's house price index last month said average prices were £150,778 - a decrease of 1.3% compared to the same period last year.

Belfast Telegraph