Belfast Telegraph

House prices surge by 9% in year but Northern Ireland property still UK's cheapest

By Claire McNeilly

House prices in Northern Ireland have soared by almost 9% in the last year, although they are still only worth around half of their 2007 values, official figures have revealed.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicated that house values remain 45.1% below their peak level eight years ago during the property boom.

A surge of 8.8% in the year to April means the average local property is now priced at £147,000.

But despite growth here being the highest in the UK, prices still remain the lowest of any region.

The average price in England is £284,000, while it's £169,000 in Wales and £191,000 in Scotland.

Richard McCullough from Stanley Best Estate Agents, which has branches in Belfast, Cookstown and Magherafelt, said there had been a number of repossessions as a result of the problem.

"House prices are still at around half of what they were at their peak," he said.

"That has been an issue for some people who couldn't keep up their mortgage repayments and there have been cases where the bank has intervened to take back properties.

"We are currently seeing more transactions in the local market because vendors have become more realistic about lowering asking prices until they achieve a sale."

The ONS report said that overall in April "the pace of annual house price growth fell across the majority of the UK".

Property prices in the UK increased by 5.5% in the year to April, a sharp fall in the annual rate from 9.6% recorded the previous month,

House price annual inflation was 8.8% in Northern Ireland - higher than any other UK region - compared with 5.8% in England, 2.2% in Scotland and 1.3% in Wales.

Paddy Turley, an estate agent with Ulster Property Sales, said some clients had lost as much as

50% on investment properties. But he added that people had bought properties in 2007 and sold them on at a profit three years later.

"Timing is everything when it comes to buying and selling houses," he said.

"The market is buoyant at the minute.

"If we could turn on the supply tap a bit more it would be useful because the demand is certainly there.

"Our sales are up 20% on last year.

"Anything that's priced correctly is moving within four to six weeks." He added: "There still is a huge problem with negative equity in Northern Ireland compared to other parts of the UK."

In February, house prices in Northern Ireland experienced a 14.2% growth rate - the strongest in more than seven years and almost double that of the Britain (7.2%).

Figures from the Enforcement of Judgments Office in Belfast - the department of the Courts Service that deals with possession orders - show 6,286 homes were repossessed by banks and building societies from 2007 to 2014.

New figures issued for the period January to March 2015 show that 262 homes were repossessed, compared to more than 400 for the same period in 2014.

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