Northern Ireland housing market is 'improving'

Man looking at houses for sale in shop window

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Northern Ireland's housing market is showing signs of improvement with the number of sales up and the rate of price decline slowing, a new survey suggests.

The University of Ulster survey indicated the number of sales in the third quarter of the year was 1,133.

This is up from 1,062 in the previous three months.

The overall average price of a house was £139,691.

That meant the weighted rate of annual decline slowed to 7.5% from 15.3% recorded in the second quarter of this year.

'Correction'

The survey, which covered some 120 firms of estate agents, showed that 69% of properties sold at or below £150,000 during the third quarter.

The authors of the report which was conducted in conjunction with Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, said the market was still demonstrating volatility.

"Although activity levels have improved, the market is still in a state of correction from what was arguably the deepest downturn ever experienced in Northern Ireland," said Professor Alastair Adair, Professor Stanley McGreal and Dr David McIlhatton.

"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 added.

'Seasonal influences'

Alan Bridle, UK economist at Bank of Ireland, said there were a number of market dynamics at play including contrasts between performance in parts of greater Belfast and provincial and rural areas.

He added: "The winter months will inevitably see some seasonal influences on activity levels and it is likely 2011 will mark the fourth consecutive year of house price decline.

"The region is learning, at some cost, that housing market cycles are typically extended and pronounced."

Joe Frey, Housing Executive head of research, said the report was further evidence of a more robust market.

"Although first-time buyers are still facing difficulties in terms of accessing mortgage finance and continuing uncertainty in the labour market, house price to income rations clearly show that in comparison to a few years ago Northern Ireland's housing market is now much more affordable," he said.

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