Belfast Telegraph

Brexit uncertainty main factor hitting housing market in Northern Ireland: survey

Uncertainty: Sam Dickey
Uncertainty: Sam Dickey
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Brexit is the biggest factor impacting on the confidence of estate agents, according to a survey today citing the UK's exit from the EU as one of the biggest challenges facing the housing market.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey for February 2019 revealed that 70% of surveyors in the province regard Brexit uncertainty as the biggest stumbling block for the sector.

A lack of stock, quoted by 40% of respondents, and affordability (20%) were also cited as the main issues affecting the industry.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS chief economist, said: "Although activity in the housing market continues to be weighted down by the lack of available stock, changes in the tax regime affecting property, and affordability; feedback to the latest RICS survey makes it pretty clear that the ongoing uncertainty around how Brexit will play out is the critical factor influencing both buyers and sellers. And with little sign that the issue will be resolved anytime soon, it could prove to be a challenging spring for the housing market and the wider economy.

"It is clear from professionals working in the market that this environment requires a greater degree of realism from those looking to move. A reluctance from some vendors to acknowledge the shift in the balance of power in the market will compound the difficulty in executing transactions."

While the report revealed that NI's "relatively buoyant housing market" has continued to show signs of a slowdown, the province still remains better off than other regions of the UK.

The results for February 2019 said Northern Ireland still reported the strongest balance across the UK regions in both categories.

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The latest Land and Property Services house price figures showed that house prices in NI grew at the highest rate of any other region in the UK in the last year.

It said prices in NI increased by 5.5% in the year to December 2018. This compares with a UK average of 2.5%, the UK's lowest annual rate since July 2013.

And it revealed at the end of 2018, the average house price in NI was £136,669 while the UK average was £230,776.

When broken down, figures showed that Belfast experienced the highest increase in house prices at 7.7% and Mid and East Antrim the lowest at 1.6%.

Samuel Dickey, RICS residential property spokesman for NI, said: "As the end of March draws closer, there is clearly some uncertainty, and unsurprisingly, there is some evidence of this in surveyors' near-term expectations.

"Despite this though, it is encouraging that surveyor feedback suggests a more positive 12-month outlook and indeed the Northern Ireland housing market currently appears more resilient than other United Kingdom regions."

Terry Robb, head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, added: "The Northern Ireland housing market is currently relatively upbeat when compared to other parts of the UK.

"However, in the current climate, some buyers and sellers may be erring on the side of caution, seen for instance in the lower levels of new instructions.

"Mortgage demand though remains relatively strong, and we continue to see good interest from potential homebuyers and movers."

Belfast Telegraph