A top estate agent has experienced a spike in the number of people returning home to live in Northern Ireland alongside a surge in the number of English families choosing to relocate to our shores.
John Minnis expects the trend to continue and does not believe the Bank of England’s interest rate hike will have a negative impact on the regional market.
Whilst he concedes any future rises may cause an upset, the property expert believes the 0.5% increase is ultimately a good thing.
“I have been doing this for 25 years and I have never seen the market as interesting,” he said.
“As soon as the market gets good, I tend to get a bit worried about the impending bad period.
“But I don’t see a bad period here or around the corner.”
The director of John Minnis Estate Agents revealed his biggest challenge at the minute is not selling houses, but getting them onto the books.
“Demand is outstripping supply and when that happens, we get into bidding contests for houses,” he explained.
“We listed a property on Thursday and within 24 hours we have 18 viewers booked in.
“That is for a fairly typical four bed house in Bangor.”
It comes as economists warn the Bank of England’s move to push interest rates up to 1.75% will hurt borrowers in Northern Ireland and add to the cost of home loans on variable or tracking deals.
It’s estimated that around 85,000 of 236,000 mortgage holders here hold variable or tracker mortgages.
However, at around 150,000, the majority are on fixed-rate mortgages.
“Northern Ireland is a little bit different from the rest of the UK and therefore the market here is insulated — we are unlikely to see a price drop,” Mr Minnis said.
“The rise we’ve seen in prices is slowing down, however, I expect they will plateau and stabilise.
“At the moment I have no problem when it comes to the sale of houses.
“It’s a good market to sell in and I’m not sure people realise that.
“We would like to see more properties on the market. If we could get double the amount of properties on our listings we would sell double the amount of properties.”
However, the estate agent said the lack of supply makes it a difficult market to buy in.
“Before Covid we had a very domestic market,” Mr Minnis explained.
“We are now seeing huge numbers of buyers from England with 37% coming from there and more interest from overseas generally.
“What’s really interesting is that English families are choosing to relocate here because they realise they can enjoy a lifestyle that’s not available to them across the water.”
The property seller also said the pandemic has allowed ex-pats to return home and continue working in their foreign-based jobs remotely.
“That’s a great thing because they are coming home to live here with their American or Dubai salaries,” Mr Minnis said.
“They have surplus income and that has a good spin off for the wider economy.
“Many people have returned to our shores from across Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.”
Despite the positive outlook, Mr Minnis admitted he is worried about the impact of the worsening cost-of-living crisis.
“Every time I turn the corner someone puts their prices up,” he said.
“Everything is going up and there is less money in people’s pockets and at some stage that will obviously have an impact.”
Meanwhile, Ballymena estate agent Ryan Gregg is keen to remind people that interest rates remain historically low.
He is confident any negative impact of the hike will be short lived.
“It will only help stabilise prices, I don’t think it will make them drop,” he said.
“I’ve already had a lady on the phone this morning to say she is parking her property search for now.
“This was the final nail in the coffin for her and I’m sure she is not alone.”
The director of Rainey and Gregg Property and Financial Services mortgage holders on variable deals are going to be the ones affected.
“A lot of people are locked into five-year fixed deals so they won’t see a change,” he said.
“Others who do, and new buyers, can extend the term of their mortgage, which isn’t ideal, but would offset any additional monthly cost.”
Mr Gregg acknowledged home movers and first-time buyers will be influenced by negative headlines and the cost of living crisis.
“But I don’t see prices coming down,” he said.
“There’s a perception out there of a property boom, but there hasn’t been a boom since 2007.
“We did start to see 10% price increases last year, but that’s not sustainable and will not continue.
“The interest rate rise will help correct that.”