Belfast Telegraph

High demand could see Northern Ireland house prices outperform rest of UK

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland's housing market is poised to outperform the rest of the UK for the next few months with rising prices and increased demand from potential buyers, according to a survey today.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey said members here were more confident about the housing market than their counterparts in the UK as a whole.

But it warns that the rosy outlook among estate agents here could be affected by economic conditions such as a further increase in interests, and continued problems with supply.

And recent growth in the building of new homes could also be affected by a rise in price of materials.

Across the UK, new buyer enquiries, instructions and sales were all down in January, while estate agents were forecasting a flat market in the next few months.

But in Northern Ireland new buyer enquiries were on the up. However, long-standing concerns around supply persisted, with more new buyers asking about purchases than prospective sellers putting their property on the market.

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics say the average house price in Northern Ireland is now £132,000, with a rise of 6% year-on-year making it the UK region with the highest rate of house price growth.

Samuel Dickey, RICS residential property spokesman in Northern Ireland, said: "The picture presented of the market in Northern Ireland is considerably more positive than in some other UK regions, with prices here reported to be rising and a growing number of potential new buyers active in the market.

"Surveyors are also relatively positive about the outlook, but there are a number of factors that could influence these outcomes, including a rise in interest rates, a shortage of supply and wider economic conditions.

"The increased cost of building materials combined with demand for higher quality homes will also act to make new-build properties more expensive."

Sean Murphy, managing director for personal banking at Ulster Bank, said: "Our own experience suggests that this positive activity trend is continuing, so it is not surprising that the local housing market remains relatively buoyant.

"There's no doubt that there are economic challenges ahead for 2018, including rising inflation, but the evidence suggests that people continue to want to own their own home and that the outlook for the market among surveyors remains quite upbeat."

According to the Executive Office's Northern Ireland housing bulletin for July to September last year, there were 1,616 new homes completed during the quarter, up 4.3% on the same quarter a year earlier.

But over the same period, there was also a fall in new dwelling starts of 14.9% from 2,024 to 1,723.

Figures from the National House Building Council for 2017 as a whole show a 7% increase in new home starts for the year, from 3,178 to 3,396.

Belfast Telegraph

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