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NI house prices hit five-year high as pent-up demand fuels sales

But expert warns soaring property values could put home ownership beyond the reach of some buyers


Optimistic: Samuel Dickey

Optimistic: Samuel Dickey

Optimistic: Samuel Dickey

Northern Ireland house prices are seeing the highest growth of any UK region with buyers competing more fiercely than ever for homes with gardens, according to a major survey today.

The report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank said prices were hitting a five-year high - accelerating fears that a new home could become out of reach for many would-be buyers.

Enquiries, sales and new interest were all on the up as demand remained high after being pent-up during lockdown, when the housing market had effectively shut down.

And people were also flocking to buy now while the Chancellor's stamp duty exemption applies to homes costing under £500,000.

The exemption remains in place until the end of March.

Lockdown had also influenced what people wanted in their dream home, with surveyors and estate agents all predicting that demand would continue to rise for homes with gardens and outside space.

At Belfast Telegraph's Propertynews.com, homes with large outside spaces and spectacular views - and in one case, an outdoor heated swimming pool - were the most-viewed on the website over the summer months.

Yet today's report also reports some fears among surveyors and estate agents about the future for house prices because of their concerns over the wider economic climate.

In the short-term, a substantial majority of estate agents were reporting that prices here had gone up in August - more than had reported rising prices in July.

Samuel Dickey, RICS Northern Ireland residential property spokesman, said: "The latest survey provides firm evidence of a strong uplift in activity in the NI housing market over recent months which should help support the wider economy.

"Less welcome for many is the pick-up in prices which could intensify issues around affordability; however this is less of an issue in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK.

"Meanwhile the results provide a further pointer to more substantive changes taking place in household behaviour in the wake of the pandemic.

"Increased demand for properties with gardens and nearby green spaces has, if anything, increased further."

Terry Robb, head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, said: "We know it has been an uncertain number of months for people wanting to own their own home or to move property.

"To help buyers, we have a range of competitive mortgage deals available as well as options for co-ownership mortgages which have been very popular.

"As a bank, we remain strongly committed to supporting people to buy their own home, to move house and to remortgage, and will continue to lend in a responsible way that enables people to do so and supports market activity."

Banks and building societies have been asking for higher deposits from home buyers in response to the economic impact of coronavirus.

And many first-time buyers are finding that they require more than the usual 10% deposit to secure a mortgage deal.

The RICS and Ulster Bank market survey does not give indications in figures.

However, the latest residential property price index from Land and Property Services, covering January to March, said the average price here had grown by about 3.8% year on year to £140,580.

Belfast Telegraph