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'Floodgates opened' on house sales as prices start to settle

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Estate agents have warned that the lending environment is key to ensuring housing market stability

Estate agents have warned that the lending environment is key to ensuring housing market stability

PA Archive/PA Images

Estate agents have warned that the lending environment is key to ensuring housing market stability

Average house prices are stabilising, according to the latest figures released by Ulster University. But Northern Ireland will have to wait until the end of the year before the true impact of lockdown on the property market is really known.

Research shows there was a high level of activity in the housing market as we emerged from the shutdown, with only a slight reduction in house prices during the second quarter of 2020.

Prices for detached homes have increased by 5%, with apartments, terraced and semi-detached all decreasing.

Properties now cost £175,551 on average.

There has been a wide fluctuation in prices, with some areas like Antrim and Newtownabbey seeing a fall of almost 20%, while in Fermanagh and Omagh they have risen by over 23%.

The most expensive area to buy is Lisburn and Castlereagh, with an average price of £199,687.

It is followed by Causeway Coast and Glens at £197,636.

Antrim and Newtownabbey is by far the cheapest council area to buy in, with an average price of £128,457. The average figure for Belfast is £171,636.

Estate agents have warned that the lending environment is key to ensuring housing market stability.

"There has been a lot of activity since the lockdown was lifted," said lead researcher at the University of Ulster Dr Martin Hinch.

"Any estate agent will tell you they have been flat-out doing sales, probably due to some backed-up sales, and the floodgates have opened."

He said the size of the deposit would vary from lender to lender, but there have already been warnings that the scarcity of low deposit mortgages for first-time buyers will prevent many from getting onto the property ladder.

"The second quarter of 2020 has been dominated by the pandemic and the resultant restrictions imposed upon sales transactions for the majority of the period," Dr Hinch added.

"Despite the challenges of lockdown the housing market has re-emerged displaying the same buoyancy and demand that was apparent in the first quarter, most likely due to an accumulation of delayed transactions from pre-lockdown sales and new interest generated during the period of inactivity.

"During the coming months several factors will play their part in market performance, such as the scale and impact of the economic recession, the course of the continuing pandemic and the ongoing management of the UK's departure from the EU."

The prolonged nature of the lockdown and furlough measures meant that the market was essentially not open for business for two months of the quarter.

However, the reopening of the market has witnessed strong levels of enthusiasm among housebuyers, as well as a marked uplift in transactions.

Estate agents reported a flurry of activity and a high volume of new listings and viewings, and a number noted that viewings were translating into firm offers, often via bidding wars, as the market progresses out of lockdown.

Michael Boyd, deputy chief executive and finance director at the Progressive Building Society, said the housing market recovery will be key to a general economic revival.

"Infrastructure projects and the housing market will play an important role in the recovery as a catalyst for the wider economy," he said.

"The housing market in Northern Ireland is resilient," Mr Boyd said. "It is in a much better position to face economic upheaval than it was 10 years ago."

Belfast Telegraph