NI property market: Spike in people coming back to ‘safer’ N Ireland from England

A property academic has been surprised to hear that lockdown conditions in England have prompted a spike in people wanting to return home to “safer” Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 10:02 am
There is reported to be a trend in people in England enquiring about buying houses back in Northern Ireland. Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

Dr Martin Hinch, Research Associate in Residential Property Markets at Ulster University was speaking only days before he is due to release his report on the property market for NI during Q2, the main period of lockdown so far.  

“One estate agent told me there are many people moving back to Northern Ireland because they feel it is safer here,” Dr Hinch told the News Letter.

“He said there are a lot of people moving from England to Northern Ireland - possibly people who had been brought up here - who have decided to move back because they felt it was a better place to live. I was quite surprised by that myself.

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“One estate agent in the north west said he had a lot of enquiries from people coming back but not just to the north west, but Northern Ireland generally. The word he used was ‘safer’.”

During lockdown, NI natives in England seem to have concluded that NI is safer because the population density is much lower and they can get much more house for their money here.

One key trend during lockdown is that many people feel they need a bigger home with a garden and an office if they are going to be working from home in future.

Dr Hinch said he would normally suggest a trend can only be spotted over at least three quarters. Whereas a pandemic would have an immediate impact on the stock market it would take much longer for any impact to be seen on property prices, he added.

He added: “If and when this recession hits then I think we will probably see it hitting the housing market. That said we have had four years of Brexit uncertainty and the NI market plateaued but didn’t crash. So there is an element of resilience here.”

In NI the recent stamp duty exemption affects 95% of transactions as most properties are below the £500,000 threshold, but that does not apply in England, so that is potentially another factor in favour of NI’s market, he said.

“The worst case scenario is that we are facing the mother of all recessions with mass unemployment, and in that case every property market in the UK will suffer. But the flip side of the coin is that we have kind of got a foot in both camps in terms of Brexit.

“There might be many businesses saying - well we would be better in Northern Ireland than we would be in England.”

The UK-wide Halifax House Price Index shows house prices hit a new all time high in July as the property market reopened after lockdown.

The average UK price was £241,604 last month, 1.7% higher than June’s £237,834.

Average NI prices in Q4, 2019 were £145k, jumping to £150k in Q1, 2020 and then dipping back to £146k in Q2.

Halifax managing director Russell Galley said pent-up demand caused a surprising post lockdown “spike” but he warned that the real impact of the pandemic will only become apparent after government support measures for the economy end.

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