Business

Northern Ireland house sales in April plunge 30 per cent on a year ago says HMRC

Home sales plunged by more than a quarter in Northern Ireland in April compared with the same month a year earlier, according to HMRC figures
Home sales plunged by more than a quarter in Northern Ireland in April compared with the same month a year earlier, according to HMRC figures

HOUSE sales plunged by a quarter in April compared with the same month a year earlier, according to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) figures.

In the UK as a whole 82,120 transactions were estimated to have taken place in April, marking a 25 per cent drop compared with April 2022.

In Northern Ireland, there were 1,560 transactions - down from 2,150 in March and some 30 per cent lower than the figure of 2,360 in April last year.

HMRC's report said the drop in sales between March and April "appears particularly large".

It said: "The number of transactions in March was high due to a combination of factors including a larger number of working days relative to April and the final month for purchases to be completed under the Government's Help To Buy equity loan scheme."

Mike Scott, chief analyst at estate agency Yopa, said: "This disappointing number, combined with the recent equally disappointing inflation figures and the resulting increases in market expectations for interest rates, mean that the housing market slowdown is likely to be longer and deeper than we originally anticipated."

On Tuesday, Moneyfactscompare.co.uk said several mortgage providers had withdrawn selected fixed mortgage products in recent days and some had pulled their whole fixed-rate range.

Moneyfactscompare.co.uk suggested the volatility is down to the concerns surrounding future interest rate hikes and lenders are reassessing their propositions.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures recently showed that inflation slowed to 8.7 per cent in April, although the fall had been expected to be far greater, with experts pencilling in a drop to 8.2 per cent in April.

Karen Noye, a mortgage expert at Quilter, said: "The spring and summer months typically bring more demand to the housing market but while inflation has finally started its descent, high mortgage rates could continue to put a dampener on transactions as moving home or taking the first step onto the property ladder becomes increasingly unaffordable.

"The Bank of England hiked its base rate to 4.5 per cent in May and it is not expected to stop there. Lenders have continued to up their mortgage rates in response, and they are likely to increase further should the Bank hike rates again."

Andrew Montlake, managing director of mortgage broker Coreco, said: "In recent months, we have seen the market begin to awaken from its prolonged slumber, with buyers returning and getting used to the new mortgage rate environment.

"That, of course, was before the latest inflation figures caused swap rates and therefore mortgage rates to start to increase again.

"This will undoubtedly have an effect on buyer affordability, mortgage choice, and therefore transaction levels going forward.

"With many hoping the second quarter would be the start of a new normal market, this now looks like it will be pushed back to the third quarter."

Iain McKenzie, chief executive of the Guild of Property Professionals, said: "While sales may have slowed down, estate agents have been using the quieter time to replenish their stock.

"As house prices remain buoyant, we should see sales recover in the second half of the year."