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House sales are on the rise here ... but prices keep falling

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where house prices are still falling — but estate agents have insisted properties are selling better than last year.

The Nationwide House Prices Survey revealed that the province is bottom of the league table in terms of house prices.

And with prices still inching downwards, albeit by the smallest of margins — 3% year on year, and minus 0.1% over the quarter — market recovery seems a long way off.

The survey also reported that UK prices are finally pointing upwards, even if it is only by 1.6%, with annual growth positive everywhere but here.

The rollercoaster market here has left the average property in Northern Ireland costing £134,435, compared to the £250,000 asking price of the boom years.

The Nationwide survey showed a small increase in the price of property in Belfast while homes in Ards, Armagh and the south east had all declined in value.

Simon Brien of BTWCairns, which has branches in Belfast and North Down, said: “Different parts of the province are performing differently. The east of the country has seen confidence returning to the market.”

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Mr Brien pointed out prices have crashed by up to 40% since the property peak of 2007, but added: “People are now comfortable with prices. We have had over 250 sales in the first quarter of this year.”

He also claimed the crucial resale market is recovering as opposed to just the first-time buyer and new-build sectors: “We want the whole market to perform. However, house price growth over the next year will only be marginal.”

North Down estate agent John Minnis, who has branches in Holywood and Donaghadee, said when it comes to price it depends what survey you read: “The recent Halifax survey said prices here were up.”

He claimed, however: “Prices aren’t moving. There were a lot of forced sales last year where owners sold their homes before the banks took them.”

Mr Minnis says while there are still houses languishing unsold from last year, properties going fresh onto the market are selling because prices are now more realistic.

“I have sold half a dozen houses in as many weeks,” he said.

“Like the Nationwide House Survey I feel that house prices have done very little over the past year and looking to the future will do very little in the next 12-months.

Meanwhile, Paddy Palmer of Templeton Robinson, which has five branches in Belfast and North Down, said: “Things have been so bad for so long and rather than bottoming out I think the market is levelling out.

“Things are getting better though, but not in any fast and furious way,” he said.

“Realistically-priced houses are selling; 18-months ago that wasn’t happening.”

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