House prices in Northern Ireland have recorded their most marked rise since the advent of the economic crisis, new research has indicated.
After six months of increasing values, December registered the most positive rating on a well known monthly market survey since April 2007.
In the survey by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank, almost two-thirds of local surveyors (62%) questioned reported rising prices. The remainder said values had stayed the same, with no-one reporting falling prices in December.
It is also the first time since the property peak that the market indicator has recorded seven successive months of increasing values.
The trend is set to continue through 2014, with the RICS predicting a 4% overall rise in prices over the year.
RICS spokesman Samuel Dickey said: “There was a real contrast in how 2013 started and ended, according to the survey. January 2013 was the latest in a long line of months in which the survey reported a price balance in negative territory.
“However, fast-forward to the end of the year and the data is considerably more positive. The housing market has followed a similar trajectory to the economy as a whole, with the second half of 2013 showing real signs of recovery.
“Whilst the market will see variations in different locations and property types and will continue to experience challenges, the trend of improvement is expected to continue into 2014. RICS expects Northern Ireland house prices to rise by an average of 4% during the year.”
Derek Wilson, head of lending products at Ulster Bank, said challenges remained.
“Looking ahead, while the picture is certainly more positive than it was, the housing market is not without its challenges,” he said.
“Whilst the number of first time buyers has increased significantly, the ‘home-mover’ market remains much more static, as many people take time to adjust to the new reality and set their expectations accordingly.
“But with a degree of confidence returning, and a greater sense of realism evident in property values, both on the part of sellers and buyers, 2014 should see the market continuing to improve.”