First-time buyer and home mover figures reach a 10-year high
The housing market here is moving in the right direction, according to an economist as a report reveals the number of first-time buyers and home movers in 2017 reached a 10-year high.
There were 9,700 first-time buyers with an average age of 30 and a household income of £33,000 in 2017.
And 2,700 of those got on to the first rung of the housing ladder in the fourth quarter, according to the Mortgage Trends Update from UK Finance.
It also said the home mover market was up nearly 19% in the fourth quarter, amounting to 1,900 mortgages.
It said the average home mover was 39 and had a household income of £45,000.
But Ulster Bank's chief economist Richard Ramsey said the figures need to be considered in relative terms. "From a historical perspective these figures look good as a 10-year high but the last 10 years have been abnormal and follow on from the biggest downturn in housing in UK history," he said.
"If you look at some of the figures we had in the 20 years before the downturn you will see they are significantly above what they are now."
Mr Ramsey said that in the 25 years to 2006 the average annual number of first-time mortgages advanced was closer to 14,000 - over 40% above last year's total.
"Prior to the housing downturn, the last year that there were fewer than 10,000 first-time buyer loans was 1980," he said.
Remortgage figures show that there were 8,600 home movers in Northern Ireland in 2017, 15% higher than he previous year.
But Mr Ramsey said the numbers are still "sluggish".
"First-time is outperforming home mover but that's because the legacy of negative equity still lingers," he said.
Meanwhile, recent house construction figures showed a 7% increase in new home builds here in 2017, reaching 3,396.
Mr Ramsey said both reports are a "good sign".
"But what you would want to see is a more marked growth in the home mover market, and a bigger increase in the level of housebuilding," he said.