Northern Ireland

NI house prices continue to fall

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

Average house prices in Northern Ireland are still falling. They are almost 11% down on this time last year.

The average price of a house in Northern Ireland is now about £137,000, according to the latest University of Ulster Quarterly House Price Index.

Apartments have had the sharpest decline with the average value falling by almost a quarter, reflecting the over supply in the sector.

Terraced and semi-detached houses had the lowest fall in price.

On a regional level, Lisburn performed better than the overall Northern Ireland market although the picture remains variable across different property types.

The survey of 115 estate agents showed that of the properties that are selling, one third was priced below £100,000 and two thirds were sold for less than £150,000.

However, house sales in Northern Ireland rose in the final quarter of 2011.

There were 960 transactions between October and December last year, compared to 684 for the same period in 2010.

The report was produced in partnership with Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The authors of the report, Professor Alastair Adair, Professor Stanley McGreal and Dr David McIlhatton, said: "The Northern Ireland housing market has closed the year in much the same way as it started.

"Although the market is showing some tentative signs of stabilisation, it is still rather thin in terms of transaction levels with average prices tending to be lower rather than higher.

"This survey shows that recovery in the Northern Ireland housing market is still not deeply embedded and remains vulnerable to economic circumstances and to the seasonal vagaries of the market which become more apparent during periods of thin market conditions."

Alan Bridle, UK economist at Bank of Ireland UK, said: "This year offers more of the same pattern as many households continue to face economic and financial headwinds that will inevitably constrain demand for house purchase and house finance.

"The prospects for higher activity levels look brighter for spring and summer, in line with seasonal trends."

Joe Frey, from the Housing Executive, said the private rented sector was continuing to expand and play an ever bigger role in meeting the accommodation needs of a growing number of potential first-time buyers and households on low incomes.

"There is a growing concern among housing professionals that the changes to the Housing Benefit system currently being introduced on a rolling basis could seriously undermine this role at a time when resources for new social housing are being reduced," he added.

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