House sales up, prices slightly drop

House sales up, prices slightly drop

An increase in the number of house sales and greater stability in property prices has been revealed in a University of Ulster report.

The overall average price of a house in Northern Ireland was £138,969, in the fourth quarter of 2012.

This was virtually identical to that recorded in the third quarter of the same year, representing a drop of 1.4%.

The University of Ulster Quarterly House Price Index for 2012's final quarter was published on Monday, produced in partnership with Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The report highlighted what its authors described as "the affordable price structure of housing in Northern Ireland".

Properties which sold for £150,000 or below accounted for 69% of house sales. Some 38% of this total were sold at or below £100,000 and the authors said this suggested that there is considerable value in the local market for buyers.

The strongest annual rise was in detached houses with the average price up 5.7%. The apartment sector also performed better over the year, up 1.9%.

The average price of semi-detached bungalows was lower by 11.8%, semi-detached houses were down 5.7% and terraced/townhouses fell by 10.8%. The average price of detached bungalows was largely unchanged, down just 0.3%.

Declining prices in some property types has to be taken in the context that performance is unequal across Northern Ireland, with some regions performing better than others, the report advised.

A generally improving 2012 market was evident in with the overall average price up in Belfast by 5.7% over one year.

South Belfast remained the highest priced area in NI with properties averaging at £185,137.

Derry/Strabane was the least expensive area in the province with an average house price of £86,986.

The authors of the report - Professor Alastair Adair, Professor Stanley McGreal, Dr David McIlhatton and Dr John McCord - said: "The current survey demonstrates some encouraging signs for the Northern Ireland housing market, notably the increased volume of transactions which suggests that there is greater activity in the marketplace, and the overall price level which has held steady over the past quarter."

Alan Bridle, UK Economist at Bank of Ireland UK, added: "While transactions remain significantly shy of peak levels, the indications that properties are moving at their fastest rate in five years would, if sustained, sound a positive note for the broader housing economy in Northern Ireland."

He continued, saying that both price and activity trends "are not uniform across the region" with the market adjustment seemingly complete in some locations but not in others.

Joe Frey, the Housing Executive's Head of Research, said: "Further signs of a more normal market, and in particular the rising number of house sales, are to be welcomed. However, it is important not to underestimate the challenges that lie ahead in the face of ongoing labour market uncertainties."


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