House prices in NI are now at a more sustainable level

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Two house price surveys have found somewhat contradictory trends on property prices in Northern Ireland.

The Ulster University Quarterly House Price Index found there had been a 1.1% fall in values.

The latest data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that house prices continued to rise in July.

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However, expectations among surveyors for prices and sales in the months ahead have moderated.

That the two surveys have reached different conclusions is not a major surprise – there are various house price surveys and none of them reach exactly the same conclusion for any one period of time. Over the longer term, however, they tend to point to the same trends.

The overall picture for the Province is clear.

Prices have been rising steadily, albeit slowly and modestly, for around four years, having been falling for most of the previous six.

Average property prices are still down 40% from the peak of the market a decade ago.

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That means that they remain well below the 2007 peak, but it is nonetheless a significant improvement from the lowest point in the downturn, around 2013, when prices were about almost 60% down from the highest point (according to a then News Letter survey of the various surveys).

The current position with house prices is probably the best that we could ask for in Northern Ireland. Why?

Well, for young people who want to get on the ladder or for people with modest incomes, who can only buy when prices are low, houses are still relatively affordable.

But for people who bought when prices were high, and who are in negative equity, they have now seen a significant, if partial, recovery. Or owners who want to use their house as their asset, perhaps to retire, now feel it has some worth.

The one thing we should all want to avoid is another boom, which will only cause misery, as the last one did.