NICS and Ulster Bank survey shows housing market staying strong

Figures showed that 51 per cent more respondents said house prices increased last month than those who didn't
Andrew Madden

THE north's housing market continued its strong start to the year last month, with prices, sales and expectations all on the rise, according to the latest figures.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank's monthly Residential Market Survey is compiled from the responses of hundreds of surveyors across the region.

Figures showed that 51 per cent more respondents said house prices increased last month than those who didn't, marking the highest level for this indicator in almost a year and suggesting house price inflation is picking up the pace.

Surveyors in the north also reported that they expected prices to continue to rise in the coming months.

In February, newly agreed sales also edged up, albeit modestly with a 5 per cent increase. Respondents said they also expect this trend to continue.

This corresponds with the number of new buyer enquiries which were reported by surveyors. A ten per cent increase in this indicator marked the sixth positive month in succession.

One problem which has plagued the Northern Ireland housing market for some time, however, seems to be continuing to be a thorn in its side.

Housing supply has for years constrained the market and only six per cent of surveyors said that new instructions to sell increased last month. But this figure was up slightly for the first time in three months.

Lack of supply means that house prices will be higher, evident in February's official NI Residential Property Price Index, which showed that the average house price in the north rose by 6 per cent in 2016, now sitting at £125, 480.

Samuel Dickey, the RICS residential property spokesman, said the region's housing market has maintained the positive momentum it began the year with.

"There is perhaps a hint that vendors are becoming more active as we move out of the winter months, but supply remains a challenge, and it remains to be seen if this eases in the months ahead," he added.

Sean Murphy, managing director of personal banking at Ulster Bank, said the survey reports have run in line with their own expectations for business.

"The Northern Ireland housing market has entered 2017 in growth mode, both in terms of prices and sales activity, and our own expectation at Ulster Bank is for strong mortgage demand, with the ongoing a very low interest rate environment and peoples' desire to own their own home," he said.

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