Northern Ireland’s house prices languish in the doldrums
Belfast Briefing: A housing charity is struggling to cope with a record demand from local people for mortgage debt advice
The Housing Rights Service believes that the level of home repossessions is much worse in Northern Ireland than in any other part of the UK. Photograph: Pacemaker
Which would you choose as your dream home – a bungalow in a suburban street in Lisburn, County Down or a villa with an ocean view in a hot climate?
It would seem according to the results of the latest local housing survey that a large majority of people in Northern Ireland might – given the choice – be inclined to opt for the bungalow in Lisburn as their dream home.
Research by the University of Ulster suggests that Lisburn currently has the highest property prices in the North and that bungalows have enjoyed the highest price jump of any property group this year.
The value of a typical bungalow has increased this year by 16.2 per cent to an average of £148,342,
According to the University of Ulster’s Quarterly House Price Index between April and June the average price of a home in Northern Ireland was £130,864. Six years ago the average house price in the North was £234,000.
The university’s house price index, which is produced with Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, illustrates just how the North is still struggling to cope with the fall out from a property crash after 16 consecutive years of price rises.
It may also help explain why one of Northern Ireland’s largest housing charities has revealed that it is “struggling” to cope with a record demand from local people for mortgage debt advice.
Latest figures from the Housing Rights Service show that between April and June of this year around 400 households contacted it to ask for help – a 26 per cent increase on the same time last year.
The charity estimates that over one third of mortgages taken out in the North since 2005 are currently in negative equity.
None of the major mortgage lenders including Santander, Halifax, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, Nationwide, First Trust or Danske will for “commercial” reasons disclose the extent of negative equity across their portfolio in the North.
But the Housing Rights Service is adamant that based on its research Northern Ireland is in a much more “critical” position with regards to the number of mortgage holders whose homes are not worth what they originally paid for them.
Nicola McCrudden, policy manager with the charity said: “Northern Ireland suffers from a huge negative equity problem which affects around seventy five per cent of our clients.” What is worth remembering is that the ongoing slump in property prices is happening against the backdrop of some fairly unsettling developments on the overall debt front in the North.