Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland house prices 'show signs of stability'

House signs
Image caption The statistics about house sales were published on Thursday

House prices in Belfast show clear signs of recovery but prices in other parts of Northern Ireland are still declining, according to researchers.

The overall average price of a house between April and June was £139,633, the latest University of Ulster Quarterly House Price Index found.

This was a slight increase on the first quarter of 2012, although over the year prices were still down by 2.4%.

The authors found signs of some market stability and even growth in parts.

The number of transactions recorded across a network of estate agents for the second quarter of 2012 was 931.

The report's authors, Professor Alastair Adair, Professor Stanley McGreal and Dr David McIlhatton, said this reflected a continuing low level of sales in the face of difficult economic conditions.

"While there is still considerable uncertainty and variation in the housing market, this latest survey suggests that price levels are starting to stabilise, and indeed, during the second quarter improved performance resulted in an increase in the overall average sale price," they wrote.

The affordability of housing has continued to improve, with 71% of the homes in the survey selling for £150,000 or less.

'Accidental landlords'

South Belfast remained the highest priced location in Northern Ireland while north Belfast had the lowest average price.

Alan Bridle, economist at Bank of Ireland UK, said: "While a quarterly increase in the average price is welcome, there are significant variations across the region.

"I believe the steep market correction since 2007 has yet to fully run its course for Northern Ireland as a whole, and I still expect that the average price in the survey will trend 5 to 10% lower over the next six to 12 months.

"The discounting of properties at the lower end of the market to encourage sales is likely to continue for some time and this will act as a drag on the overall average price."

The Housing Executive's head of research, Joe Frey, said "The latest survey provides some evidence of stabilisation in the market, but overall the news on the underlying economy is not good.

"In addition, there are still significant imbalances in the market as evidenced by the growth in the number of 'accidental landlords' - owner-occupiers who want to move house but can't sell in the current market conditions and decide to move and let their previous home out for a period of time.

"It will take some time for these to work their way through the system."

The official government house price index puts the average price in Northern Ireland much lower - at around £96,000.

It is based on stamp duty returns on all sales so includes some transactions, such as auctions, not included in the University of Ulster index.

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