Northern Ireland market healthy despite drop in mortgages, says expert
Mortgages in Northern Ireland suffered a drop at the start of this year, new figures have shown.
House loans fell by more than a third to 2,400 in the first three months of 2015, compared with the end of 2014.
And year-on-year, the number of first-time buyer purchases dropped by 13% to 1,400, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders.
The typical loan size for first-time buyers was £77,295, while home movers' was £103,000 - both down by around £2,000.
However, remortgage lending was up 9% in volume compared to the first quarter of 2014, and around a fifth in value.
Danske Bank deputy managing director of personal banking, Stephen Bloomfield, said: "While also down slightly year on year from the first quarter of 2014, the level of mortgage activity remains healthy, and both the number of sales and the value of those sales were higher in the first quarter of 2015 than in the same three months in 2011, 2012 and 2013."
Derek Wilson, chair of CML Northern Ireland, said "lending in the beginning of the year is usually muted, as seen in the UK overall due to seasonal factors" but that there were still encouraging signs of recovery. "This is the second best performing first quarter of a year for house purchase activity since 2007, just less than last year's level.
"The number of people remortgaging is higher this time than the two previous first quarters of the year, and affordability remains much better than the UK overall."
Mr Bloomfield said he expected to see a boost in first-time buying in the second quarter of 2015.
"The first quarter is traditionally a quieter time for house buying but we anticipate that activity will increase in the second quarter as first-time buyers and existing homeowners seek to take advantage of the low interest rate environment and affordable house prices," he said.
"It is encouraging to see that remortgage activity - consumers switching mortgage provider but not moving home - increased year on year after staying relatively flat for much of last year."