First-time buyers struggle in NI as house prices set to rise

New survey shows prices rose last month, a trend that is set to continue

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock


First-time buyers with low incomes and high living costs are struggling to move into home ownership in Northern Ireland, a leading housing association has warned as a new property market survey shows the value of a home and the volume of property sales is expected to increase in 2018 in the North.

The latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey for Northern Ireland released on Thursday shows that house prices in the North rose last month and further increases are expected.

As a result the RICS claims Northern Ireland’s housing market is displaying much more buoyant characteristics than the UK housing market overall which suffered from a lack of momentum in December.

In contrast potential purchasers in the North displayed much more enthusiasm as new buyer enquires rose by 25 per cent and newly agreed sales by 14 per cent last month.

Samuel Dickey, RICS residential property spokesman, said there is evidence that a gap currently exists between supply and demand which he expects will put “pressure” on prices in the near term.

“Looking further ahead, clearly there are some challenges expected on the political front, alongside a potential squeeze on consumers due to inflation and further potential movements in interest rates. However, despite some uncertainty, surveyors expect both prices and sales activity to be higher in a year’s time,” Mr Dickey added.

But while surveyors may be looking at 2018 with renewed optimism Mark Graham, chief executive of Co-Ownership - a Northern Ireland based housing association which offers a “Do It Yourself Shared Ownership”- said first time buyers will not share that.

The not for profit organisation offers people who want to buy their own home but cannot quite afford it another route - home buyers can purchase a share in their home, often with no deposit, take out a mortgage on their share and then pay rent on the remaining share.

Mr Graham is encouraging people to consider shared ownership as a viable alternative if they want to buy their own home.

“On a daily basis we continue to see the challenges faced by first-time buyers with low incomes, higher living costs and the need for large deposits all of which impact on mortgage accessibility.

“Co-Ownership is committed to supporting people into home-ownership, and while new-buyer enquiries would suggest increasing demand for mortgages we would also expect this to reflect an increase in those whose mortgage applications are unsuccessful,” he added.