Northern Ireland house prices stabilising, says survey

Couple at estate agent's window The survey was carried out by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

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The Northern Ireland housing market is stabilising after a six-year crash, a survey of estate agents has suggested.

However, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest that prices actually fell slightly in June.

Ninety per cent of those surveyed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said prices had remained the same in the quarter ending in July.

Seven per cent said prices were up and 3% said they were down.

The ONS figures, which are based on mortgage transactions, showed a fall of 0.4% compared to the same time last year.

In May, the ONS data showed that prices had risen by 1.9% which was the first month that Northern Ireland house prices had grown year-on-year since February 2008.

The ONS figures give an average price of £130,000 - the same as in early 2005 - which means that thousands of homeowners who bought in the peak years are deep in negative equity.

Analysis: John Campbell

Rics says the housing market is looking a little bit better; the ONS says it actually got a little bit worse.

What these two sets of figures do seem to agree on is that the Northern Ireland market is bumping along the bottom.

The enormous month-on-month falls came to end some time ago - the ONS has shown an average price of in and around £130,000 since the middle of 2012.

Given the overall state of the Northern Ireland economy and the long hangover from the bubble years, prices are not likely to do anything dramatic in the near future.

Rics said their survey showed that for the first time since July 2007 there have been two consecutive months where more agents have reported rising rather than falling prices.

A third of agents who responded to the survey also said that transactions had increased.

The official Northern Ireland house prices index, covering the second quarter of 2013, will be available later this month.

That index, which is based on stamp duty returns, is the most comprehensive as it includes cash transactions.

It showed that in the first quarter of the year prices were still falling and that the average house price was, at most, £109,000.

It also suggested that prices, particularly for apartments, were significantly below 2005 levels.

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