Home sales continued to slip in December, but new survey suggests greater activity in 2020

House sales and new instructions to sell continued to decline in December, new industry research suggests
Ryan McAleer

HOME sales and new instructions to sell continued to fall in December, a new survey out today suggests.

The final RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) and Ulster Bank residential market survey of 2019 indicated that newly agreed sales fell again between November and December.

The research, based on the feedback from real estate agents and others involved in the sector, concluded that there had been no increase in new instructions to sell reported in nine of the past 11 months, suggesting a slowing within the housing market throughout 2019.

Average house prices in Northern Ireland continued to rise throughout the year, approaching just under £140,000 in the third quarter (July to September), representing annual growth of around four per cent.

Yesterday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the average house price in the UK hit £235,000 in November 2019.

Unlike the rest of the UK, house price data in Northern Ireland is only released every quarter.

The north remains the cheapest place on average to own a home, but prices here are now back up to the highest levels since January 2010.

House prices rocketed from an average of £131,302 in March 2006 to an all-time high of £224,670 in the summer of 2007, before the collapse of the housing market.

Prices eventually bottomed out at an average of £97,428 in the first quarter of 2013. The average price has recovered steadily ever since.

RICS’ residential property spokesperson in the north, Samuel Dickey, said the latest survey detected much more optimism within the sector on the back of increased clarity over Brexit and the restoration of the Executive.

“However, there is a huge amount of work to be done over the course of this year in determining the nature of the eventual Brexit deal,” he said. “So uncertainty at a political level definitely hasn’t gone away.

“For now, surveyors remain upbeat about the outlook, albeit that the lack of available stock continues to act as a drag on activity and to push up prices as demand exceeds supply.”

Head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, Terry Robb, said demand for home ownership remains high.

“The very high levels of demand that we experienced for Help to Buy ISAs in the lead up to the deadline in November shows the significant demand there is in Northern Ireland for people to own their own home.

“As we move into 2020, we continue to see that demand evident from a wide range of potential buyers and remortgagers and a very healthy number of mortgage enquiries since the turn of the year.”

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