Northern Ireland's beleaguered housing market has shown a slight improvement with house sales edging up by the smallest of margins, latest figures show.
House sales have risen from 1,062 to 1,133 during the third quarter of this year, according to the latest figures from the University of Ulster’s House Price study.
But housing experts involved with the survey have predicted falling prices into the new year, taking the housing slump into its fourth consecutive year.
Prices are down again, although not as drastically as they were earlier this year — falling by 7.5% compared to 15.3% in the second quarter of 2011.
While the average house price in Northern Ireland now stands at £139,691, the quarterly price performance compared to the second quarter showed a marginal 0.1% rise in house prices.
This minuscule increase occurred in a market dominated by property slashed in price and hundreds of repossessed homes going under the hammer at a recent succession of high-profile auctions.
Meanwhile, there was a glimmer of hope for some homeowners in the property lottery with apartments and semi-detached houses enjoying a slight price hike — up 2.5% and 2.2% respectively.
However, those living in other house types will be dismayed to discover a reversal of fortunes for themselves with prices down for semi-detached bungalows a whopping 20.5%, terraces/townhouses 15.8%, detached houses 12.4% and detached bungalows 13.7% over the year.
UU report authors Professors Alastair Adair, Stanley McGreal and Dr David McIlhatton described the market here as “volatile”.
“We see a return to more normal conditions being a slow process over a period of time rather than any major short-term change in market sentiment,” they said.
The Housing Executive’s head of research, Joe Frey, welcomed the report, adding: “Northern Ireland’s housing market is now much more affordable.”
South Belfast is still the most expensive place in the province to buy a home with an average price of £196,182, while north Belfast is both the cheapest part of the city, and indeed the region, to buy a home, at £103,146 on average.
Ciara Vernon from estate agents BTW Cairns said the figures were “encouraging”.