Northern house price statistics clash over the end of slump

Agents report positive sentiment while government figures point to small drop

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 01:00

House prices in Northern Ireland are stabilising after years of dramatic falls, a survey of surveyors has found.

But these findings conflict with the British government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) research, which claims there has been a further slight fall in the property market.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) reported yesterday that 90 per cent of respondents said properties were holding their value. It added that more agents reported a rise in prices than a fall for the second month in a row. This is the first time this has been recorded by them in just over six years.

A third of those who took part in the Rics survey said the levels of transactions had also increased. Most also reported a rise in positive sentiment about the market.

However, the ONS data, which monitors the housing market throughout Britain and Northern Ireland based on mortgage lending, shows a fall of 0.4 per cent in property prices on this time last year.

Last May the ONS reported that prices had risen by 1.9 per cent – the first month that Northern house prices had grown year-on-year since February 2008. The average price of a home is about £130,000 (€151,700), the same value as that recorded in summer 2007.

The most wide-ranging property measure is due for publication later this month. The official Northern Ireland house prices index, based on stamp duty returns and which includes cash sales as well as mortgage transactions, reported in the first quarter that house prices were still falling. It valued the average Northern Ireland property at just £109,000 (€127,200).

Tom McClelland of Rics said: “The stabilisation in prices is encouraging greater activity, albeit we are still some way off what would be considered healthy transaction volumes.

“There will be bumps along the way,” he told UTV, “but we are seeing an overall trend of improvement in the market that will continue, particularly at the lower end of the market.”

British house prices are rising at their fastest pace in seven years, according to the Rics survey, which may raise concerns that government lending incentives are creating a new property bubble.
– (Additional reporting: Reuters)