Northern Ireland house price growth highest in the UK
Average cost of a home is now £139k, says study
Northern Ireland house prices were the strongest performing in the UK during 2017 with a 5.8% increase to an average of £139,599, research has found.
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But UK-wide, house price growth slowed sharply as 2018 drew to a close - recording its weakest annual growth in nearly six years, according to the Nationwide Building Society index.
Across the UK, the average house price in December was £212,281.
According to the Nationwide survey, annual house price growth UK-wide slowed from 1.9% in November to 0.5% in December.
The 0.5% increase in December was the weakest since February 2013. House prices were down by 0.7% month-on-month in December.
In contrast, house prices were up by nearly 6% in Northern Ireland. However, the market here is still in recovery from the crash which began in 2007 following a period of high increases.
According to the separate government house price index, average house prices here peaked in 2007 when they hit £224,670 in 2007 before crashing to their lowest at £97,428 in 2013 - around 60% below peak.
It puts the standardised house price in Northern Ireland at £135,060.
Thomas O'Doherty, a partner at estate agency Simon Brien, said the Nationwide survey findings reflected its experience in Northern Ireland in four offices around Belfast.
"We've probably had our busiest year last year from first-time buyers to around £1m or £2m properties.
"More first-time buyers will lead to people trading up to middle homes and then up to more expensive properties."
And he said the survey demonstrated that Northern Ireland was one of the most affordable regions in the UK in which to buy a property.
Mr O'Doherty said he did not expect Brexit to impact on the housing market's performance in Northern Ireland during 2019. "There was a lot of talk about Brexit during November and December but that had no impact whatsoever on our sales.
"In fact, even though we have only been at work for three days this week, there have already been a number of sales."
He said price increases of between 5 and 6% were "sustainable" increases.
Meanwhile, London and some commuter belt areas surrounding the capital have seen house prices dip year-on-year.
In London, the average house price in the fourth quarter of 2018 was £466,988, 0.8% lower than the same period in 2017.
The weakest performer regionally for annual house price growth was the Outer Metropolitan area, which includes Reading, Slough, Windsor and Maidenhead and Wokingham.
House prices in the Outer Metropolitan area fell by 1.4% annually in the fourth quarter of 2018, reaching £356,531 on average.
Northern Ireland was the strongest performer, with house prices in the fourth quarter of 2018 up by 5.8% annually to reach £139,599 on average, followed by the East Midlands and Wales, where house prices lifted by 4% annually.