Northern Ireland property sales soar and prices rise as the housing market booms

There are fresh signs of Northern Ireland’s booming property market in a survey which shows high levels of sales.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 9:21 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 12:46 pm
The overall average house price in Northern Ireland was £195,242, up almost 10% in a year

The University of Ulster (UU) house price survey found that transactions are at their highest level for almost 20 years.

The UU researchers noticed what they called a “race for space,” with lockdown having influenced the sort of home that people now want.

The findings come on top of other recent property research that show price rises in the Province to be among the highest in the UK.

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Amid reports of bidding wars on many properties, the UU researchers said: “We have seen an exceptionally busy market – continuing the trend from earlier this year.”

The new report on the second quarter of the year, from April until the end of June, found that the overall average house price in Northern Ireland was £195,242. This represents a weighted annual level of growth of 9.2% between the second quarter of 2020 and the same period this year.

Matched against UU historic figures, NI house prices are still about 22% down on the previous peak of £250,586, which was reached in the last three months of 2007.

After that spectacular high, prices fell by around half (different surveys showed different exact drop percentages). Slowly over the last decade, prices have edged back towards those 2007 levels.

A feature of the subsequent slump, which bottomed out between 2012 and 2014, was abnormally low levels of house sales. This was partly because homeowners were reluctant to accept depressed prices.

Elma Newberry, of the Housing Executive, which commissions the UU research, said the “exceptional level of activity” was due to reasons “including households wanting to trade up for more space, and this contributed to another increase in average prices”.

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The Ulster University research, which has been produced in partnership with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Progressive Building Society, found that more than 80% of the agents surveyed confirmed that increased viewing levels over the quarter had prompted a further increase in the number of properties achieving sale agreed status relative to the previous quarter.

Most agents expect market buoyancy to continue through into next quarter as the demand/supply imbalance continues to play a dominant role in market dynamics.

Lead researcher, Dr Michael McCord, reader in Real Estate at Ulster University, said: “As indicated throughout the previous four reports, the psychological effect of the Covid-19 pandemic upon the housing market is well and truly discernible, with the race for space clearly evident. Indeed, in the first quarter of 2021 we noted the increased competition amongst buyers, with viewings instantaneously translating into firm offers and trading up activity.

“Moving into the second quarter of the year, this trend has firmly continued with increased house prices and transaction levels.”

Michael Boyd of the Progressive Building Society said: “Despite the economic challenges of Covid, the resilience, affordability and changing patterns has seen momentum and confidence continue within Northern Ireland’s housing market throughout the first half of 2021 with the highest level of transactional volumes seen since 2007.”

Last month, property website Zoopla found NI had the biggest UK home price spike of the preceding year, 8.6%.

A number of property experts told the News Letter then that many families have sought more living space to help alleviate the pressures of home-working and home-schooling during the Covid pandemic.

Samuel Dickey, of Simon Brien residential and RICS residential spokesman, said: “We have sold to dozens of people who are from NI originally, lived in England and can now work from home, so they might sell a modest house in London for hundreds of thousands and come back and buy in a very good street in Belfast. They are pushing prices up everywhere.”

He added: “We don’t want to get into a situation again where there is a peak then a trough.”

Limavady estate agent Derek McAleese said there are “more buyers than there are houses” at present, and added: “Coastal locations, like Portstewart and Portrush, have gone a bit crazy, but the provincial towns are rising in price as well.

“I think it has to do with lifestyle, and people working from home.”

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