Northern Ireland homes equity crisis

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Negative equity is affecting close to half of all Northern Irish mortgage-holders, shock figures show.

The stunningly high rates were revealed at the weekend by mortgage firm HML, and demonstrate that the Province comes in vastly worse when stacked up against the rest of the UK.

In Northern Ireland, 41 per cent of borrowers are in negative equity, amounting to more than 68,000 households.

That compares with a UK-wide figure of eight per cent.

And although different regions vary enormously – with Scotland standing at 13 per cent, and the north of England at 16 per cent – Northern Ireland remains the highest.

One property expert put it down to house prices in Northern Ireland having plunged much more dramatically in the crash than elsewhere in the UK.

And although there have been signs of a rebound in prices for Northern Irish homes, it is likely to be cold comfort to the tens of thousands still suffering the after-effects of the collapse in home values.

Negative equity refers to a situation where the value of a home falls below the value of the outstanding mortgage repayments still to be made on it.

The soaring proportion affected by the phenomenon in Northern Ireland is no surprise for Chris Pooler, partner with Pooler Estate Agents in east Belfast.

He said: “I don’t doubt it. The market’s gone down at least 60 per cent.

“Our market collapsed much more than anybody else, because we went up so much – our prices in 2007 caught up with, more or less, the south of England.”

He said around that time he could recall homes in Ascot, Berkshire, attracting similar prices as some in the Province.

The figures in the HML report are based on mortgages taken out since 2005.

The Northern Irish figure of 41 per cent relates to the end of 2013.