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NI housing market hits the pause button due to coronavirus crisis with spring sales expected to slump by 80%

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Confident: Art O'Hagan

Confident: Art O'Hagan

Confident: Art O'Hagan

The number of spring house sales here is expected to fall by up to 80% as a result of paralysis in the market in lockdown, a Government report has said.

But Art O'Hagan of estate agency CPS has said he does not believe prices will be strongly affected by the closure of the housing market as a result of Covid-19.

The house price index from the NI Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) for January to March said the average price had grown by about 3.8% year on year to £140,580.

There was a quarterly increase of 0.2% in the average price compared to the end of 2019.

Lockdown occurred at the end of the first quarter, so the figures for January to March are largely unaffected.

But Nisra said the market had been so badly hit from April onwards that it was suspending publication of the index as there would be a lack of data to report on.

It said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has essentially paused the housing market.

"The number of sales for quarter one 2020 has not been adversely affected as the lockdown happened in the last week of March.

"However, it is expected that the number of sales recorded for April to June will be greatly reduced, by as much as 80%."

Mr O'Hagan said he believed there would be pent-up demand after lockdown and that prices would not be badly hit.

"Viewings and valuations have been non-existent but there is a significant build-up of appetite and interest to move," he said.

"Our database has increased by 18% over the past 10 weeks as the public have had time to reassess their homes and work life balance, and have had time to look at the marketplace."

Mr O'Hagan said that of 184 pending house deals in his agency, only six had collapsed.

The remaining 178 were expected to go through subject to factors such as changing employment circumstances, valuations and the reopening of Land Registry, which records property market transactions.

CPS has branches in Belfast, Omagh, Dungannon, Armagh, Portadown, London and Marbella.

According to Nisra, during the first quarter house prices ranged from the lowest of an average of £125,188 in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon to £165,294 in Lisburn and Castlereagh.

And there had been 4,746 properties sold during the first quarter.

Year on year, the highest price rise had taken place in the Causeway Coast and Glens Council area, where the average was up 6% to £151,902.

And the number of sales in the first three weeks of March was 19.1% higher than the same time a year earlier.

But there was almost a 50% fall in sales for the last week of the month, Nisra reported.

Belfast Telegraph