Northern Ireland housing market among UK's best performing regions amid ongoing Brexit uncertainty
While there is on-going concern about Brexit uncertainty, the Northern Ireland housing market continues to be one of the best performing in the UK, according to a new report.
The Residential Market Survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank for March is the monthly litmus test taken from Northern Ireland property surveyors.
It found that most are detecting increasing signs of the impact of Brexit on the housing market here.
However the 12-month forecast among surveyors remains positive, albeit adopting a more conservative outlook.
Most anticipate an increase in first time buyer activity.
With the first official 2019 Government housing figures unavailable until the middle of May, the survey is considered an early warning system for trends in the housing market.
Northern Ireland appears to be performing strongly in comparison to the rest of the UK, but the survey reflects a recent dip in surveyor confidence.
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RICS suggests the housing market here is showing increasing signs of the impact of ongoing political uncertainty.
Respondents continued to perceive a rise in residential property prices in the last month, but the pace at which prices are rising has eased back.
The results point to a slight slump in current activity, as new buyer enquiries and new instructions both took a downturn in March.
On the back of the findings, RICS has said that It now expects the rate of home sales in the coming three months to drop.
“Commentary from survey respondents noted a perceived ‘wait and see’ approach amongst both prospective buyers and sellers, as we remain without a definitive Brexit outcome,” concluded the report.
The latest official housing data for Northern Ireland, released in February, put the average house price here at £136,669 at the end of 2018, 5.5% higher than the same period in 2017.
Belfast saw the biggest spike in prices, increasing by 7.7% over the year to leave the average home valued at £131,324. At 160,834, Lisburn and Castlereagh remains the most expensive place on average to buy a home, followed by Ards and North Down (£153,417) and Newry, Mourne and Down (£141,824).
Mid and East Antrim was the only one of Northern Ireland’s 11 districts to record a dip in house prices during the final three months of 2018. It fell 2.2% over the quarter, and recorded the slowest annual increase (1.6%).
Despite the impact of the ongoing political ambiguity, RICS said surveyors remain optimistic for the longer-term future of the NI housing market, with many under the belief that prices will rise within the next 12 months and sales will regain growth.
The Northern Ireland spokesperson for the RICS, Samuel Dickey, said: “While the results do paint a challenging picture for the NI residential market, comments from surveyors are pointing towards an incoming increase in first-time buyer properties.
“This group in particular may welcome the easing rise in house prices and contribute to the positive longer-term outlook. Overall, the market remains relatively strong despite the headwinds and uncertainty of Brexit.”
Ulster Bank’s head of personal banking, Terry Robb, said: “Some people are perhaps taking a wait and see approach before deciding upon a move or purchase, but sales in the new build market in particular are currently quite strong and this is reflected in a steady demand for mortgages.
“With an increasingly supply of new build properties reported to be coming onto the market, this also bodes well for first time buyer activity in the months ahead.”