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House prices up 3 per cent - but surveyors warn of tough winter

Housing market activity in Northern Ireland is still strong, but surveyors say they are more cautious about the winter months
Gary McDonald Business Editor

AVERAGE house prices in Northern Ireland rose by 3 per cent to £141,000 in July according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

But it comes amid a warning that house sales are expected to be lower in a year's time as the tough economy weighs down on the market.

Property professionals questioned in the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) and Ulster Bank residential market survey point to strong current market activity.

Three quarters of all respondents saw prices rising in Northern Ireland, higher than all other UK regions apart from Wales, and while 48 per cent reported new buyer enquiries, this was a slight softening from August’s survey.

Data for newly agreed sales and instructions to sell also remained strong at 45 per cent and 46 per cent respectively, though these too also eased back from the previous month's highs.

Anecdotally, surveyors say that whilst the current market is buoyant, a more challenging period is ahead as pent up demand from the lockdown period moves through the system.

Samuel Dickey from Rics said: “The housing market once again showed resilience with September bringing another month of strong sales across the price bands.

“We see the impact of the stamp duty holiday, pent-up demand, and also the behavioural changes post lockdown, as strong contributing factors to the current market conditions. In the coming months as more buyers find new homes, we envisage a continuous demand in the market but at a more sustainable and affordable level.”

Rics chief economist Simon Rubinsohn added: "There is increasing concern that the combination of significant job losses over the coming months allied to the scaling back of policy initiatives in early 2021 will have an adverse impact on transaction levels.

"Meanwhile there is little sense this softer sales picture will be accompanied by very much easing in the momentum around prices and rents, adding to the ongoing challenge around affordability.”

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