Brexit worries putting people off buying homes in Northern Ireland, says new research
Brexit is affecting the housing market in Northern Ireland as price growth eases to hit an average of just over £163,000, according to a survey.
The research by Ulster University and Progressive Building Society said next month's Brexit deadline of March 29 meant that buyers, sellers and investors had been putting off any big decisions during October to December.
The report said: "Estate agents' market observations this quarter have been dominated by the impending Brexit deadline.
"There is a strong feeling that many vendors, purchasers and investors are collectively holding off from any significant decisions relating to property transactions until the outcome of the ongoing Brexit negotiations has been decided."
The university said the overall average house price for October to December had been £163,165, up 4.9% over the year and just 0.1% on the quarter before. There had been 1,954 transactions.
Around one-fifth of properties sold at £100,000 or below, with those at or below £150,000 making up 58% of transactions.
In the higher price brackets, 78% of transactions are at or below £200,000, 87% of properties sold at or below £250,000 and 93% at or below £300,000.
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South Belfast was the most expensive place to buy a house, with an average of £231,766.
Craigavon/Armagh had the cheapest homes, at an average of £125,247.
Ulster University said that the analysis suggested the housing market was "relatively stable and affordable". Dr Martin Hinch, lead researcher at Ulster University, said the survey indicated more subdued market conditions, compared to high growth in the first half of the year.
"Annual increase for 2018 is resilient at 4.9%, however quarterly growth is considerably more moderate, with very little change in overall average price during the last three months of the year. This is consistent with housing markets elsewhere within the UK and would appear to reflect the high levels of political and economic uncertainty both in Northern Ireland and the wider economy."
A separate survey by the Nationwide Building Society assessed house price growth at 5.8% over the year, to reach an average of £139,599.
And the Government's house price index for July to September also recorded house price growth of 4.8% over the year, giving a standardised house price of £135,060.
However, the house price index is based on government records which take into account auction sales, giving a lower spread of prices - unlike the Ulster University research, which is based on reports by estate agents.
Michael Boyd, deputy chief executive and finance director of Progressive Building Society, said: "While quarterly growth for the fourth quarter was more subdued than in quarter one and quarter two of 2018, this report reflects a housing market that is sustainable compared to the same period in 2017.
"The well documented current political challenges may have impacted vendors' decision-making this quarter, resulting in suppressed sales with seasonality also playing a factor.
"However, with unemployment rates below the UK average and continued affordability, the housing market is in a healthy place." The latest report comes after the National House Building Council said new home registrations here had soared by 42% during 2018 to 4,804 new homes.