Belfast Telegraph

Ownership of homes set to hold steady

By Heather McGarrigle

Home ownership should remain steady in Northern Ireland - but only if the banks start lending, property experts said.

Estate agents have said the housing market here was unlikely to mirror predictions of a slump in home ownership in England over the next decade.

The National Housing Federation's forecast said only 63.8% of England's population would have bought their own homes by 2021, the lowest level since the mid-1980s.

Huge deposits, combined with high house prices and strict lending criteria, have sent home ownership into decline, the federation added.

Northern Ireland housing market experts say the outlook here is not so bleak.

Economist John Simpson said: "Over the past two or three years, I believe owner occupancy in Northern Ireland has dipped below 60%. However, if the market remains stable, I see no reason why owner occupancy cannot head towards 70%."

Lisburn estate agent Bill McCann said: "We are four years into a very difficult market period - however, housing prices in Northern Ireland are beginning to stabilise.

"Traditionally, Northern Ireland always had a nice steady market, which didn't see the huge highs and lows of the rest of the UK. But then the boom happened and changed all that.

"If we return to that steady market then it's certainly possible we could see good levels of home ownership in Northern Ireland.

"However, difficulty getting a mortgage is currently a problem."

Gerry McGarrigle, chartered surveyor at Survey Services Belfast, said: "Anecdotal evidence suggests anything less than a blemish-free credit history is not good enough for a mortgage, which rules out virtually everyone."