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Rise in house sales in Northern Ireland is likely to bring price growth, says report

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Samuel Dickey of RICS is optimistic about housing market activity over the next 12 months

Samuel Dickey of RICS is optimistic about housing market activity over the next 12 months

Samuel Dickey of RICS is optimistic about housing market activity over the next 12 months

Estate agents in Northern Ireland are the most optimistic they have been about the housing market for nearly 18 months, according to a survey today.

But prices are now more likely to increase, with surveyors reporting a sales increase last month following a bounce in optimism among buyers and sellers.

A majority of surveyors and estate agents reported a pick-up in sales during January, according to today's research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

But the availability of housing to sell is a major challenge in the market, according to the report, which is carried out with Ulster Bank.

And surveyors observed that there were not enough resale properties coming onto the market.

Nonetheless, expectations that sales would grow over the next three months were at the highest for 17 months.

But pressure on prices was building, and Northern Ireland surveyors were the most likely in the UK to express the view that prices would be going up.

Samuel Dickey, RICS residential property spokesman in Northern Ireland, said: "There has been a clear improvement in sentiment in the housing market with local as well as national political developments likely to be a factor.

"The rise in new sales instructions coming onto the market is a noteworthy and much needed development, given the lack of fresh listings over the past few years. Political uncertainty may resurface towards the end of the year but, at this point in time, contributors are optimistic regarding the outlook for activity over the next 12 months."

Terry Robb, head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, said: "There has been a noticeable increase in mortgage enquiries and interest in the early part of the year, with a sense of renewed confidence in the market.

"This will likely translate into good sales activity in the months ahead, particularly if more homes come onto the market and available for sale."

Last week, the housebuilding industry here said Brexit was a factor in the number of new homes registered to be built in Northern Ireland dropping by 7% last year.

Warranty and insurance provider NHBC said there had been 4,397 housing registrations during 2019, down from 4,743 in 2018.

Conor Mulligan of housebuilder Lagan Homes said turmoil over Brexit had led to uncertainty in the house-building sector.

But he added: "Thankfully the deal finally agreed upon, whilst imperfect, has eased a lot of those concerns and most developers are now seeing a significant jump in demand."

Separate research by government body Land and Property Services in November last year said house prices had grown by 4% over the previous 12 months to reach an average of £139,951.

The residential property price index said there had also been growth of 2.3% over the last quarter.

Overall, prices have recovered by 26.1% since early 2015, with 10 out of 11 district council areas showing an increase between the third and fourth quarters of last year.

Over the last year, houses in the Fermanagh and Omagh area saw the highest average price increase, up 7.6% to £132,642.

The most expensive council area is Lisburn and Castlereagh, where the average house is sold for £164,900.

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