Northern Ireland house prices to rise in spite of UK gloom
Northern Ireland's housing market is set for a year of growing sales and prices despite some unfavourable conditions, according to a survey today.
The latest research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank said the province's housing market was entering 2018 on a "firm footing".
However, it added that factors, such as a possible further rise in interest rates, and political uncertainty, could hit growth.
Estate agents who took part in the RICS survey said prices had gone up again in December. However, there were more inquiries from prospective buyers than sellers during the month, suggesting a continued gap between supply and demand.
According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, average house prices here are now £132,000 - a rise of 6% year-on-year and the highest of the UK nations.
And RICS members have said they expected house prices here to grow between now and the end of 2018.
However, NI members did not expect a substantial increase, although their belief prices would go up at all made them among the most optimistic in the UK.
Overall, the Northern Ireland housing market appeared to be in a more robust condition than the UK as a whole, where RICS said interest from buyers was waning.
Surveyor Samuel Dickey, of RICS, said: "Surveyors appear confident in the near-term outlook for the market in Northern Ireland, with interest from potential buyers evident, and the gap between supply and demand likely to put some upward pressure on prices.
"Looking further ahead, clearly there are some challenges expected on the political front, alongside a potential squeeze on consumers due to inflation and further potential movements in interest rates.
"However, despite some uncertainty, surveyors expect both prices and sales activity to be higher in a year's time."
Sean Murphy, managing director of personal banking at Ulster Bank, said: "Clearly the Northern Ireland housing market enters 2018 with good momentum and relative optimism for the year ahead, and our own expectation is for good mortgage demand from home buyers, movers and those remortgaging."
Mr Murphy said that the RICS survey chimed with the positive outlook for the economy in 2018 in the bank's latest purchasing managers' index.