Belfast Telegraph

Estate agents upbeat, but fears remain over the lack of new homes

Confidence: Samuel Dickey
Confidence: Samuel Dickey
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Estate agents and surveyors in Northern Ireland have said they are feeling more upbeat about the housing market here following the UK general election, according to a survey.

Today's Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank report said estate agents were now expecting prices and sales activity to pick up in the early part of the year after slowing down at the end of 2019.

There had been fewer new buyers, sales and instructions to sell during December, making it the second month of slowdown in a row. And December also marked the third month in a row in which the number of new houses coming on to the market had fallen.

But members of RICS have started the new year in a more positive mood, with optimism over sales at its strongest since September 2018. And expectations that prices will increase are at their highest since June last year.

However, surveyors caution that there are concerns over a lack of new homes coming on to the market.

The separate residential property price index from Land and Property Services has said the average house price here is now just under £140,000, an increase of 4% year-on-year.

Surveyors who responded to the RICS survey were also upbeat about the outlook for the next year, with a large number expecting prices to be higher in a year's time.

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But the availability of houses to sell was a challenge, with fears a lack of supply could limit sales activity while also pushing up prices.

Samuel Dickey, RICS residential property spokesman, said: "The survey suggests that sentiment in the housing market locally and across the UK is benefiting from the greater clarity provided by the decisive election outcome.

"Locally, the recent restoration of the Executive and Assembly should also provide some more confidence in the Northern Ireland economy."

But he said the lack of clarity on a final Brexit deal meant that political uncertainty would persist.

He added: "For now, surveyors remain upbeat about the outlook, albeit that the lack of available stock is a drag on activity and pushes up prices as demand exceeds supply."

Terry Robb, head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, said demand from potential buyers was strong, with the bank's Help to Buy ISAs popular before a deadline for applications in November. Demand was also strong from remortgagers, he added.

Belfast Telegraph

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