House sales in North decline by about half


NORTHERN HOUSE sales have dropped dramatically amid a deeply uncertain market, a new report published this morning is claiming.

Just in excess of 1,000 house sales were concluded in the second quarter, a fall of some 50 per cent according to the University of Ulster/Bank of Ireland survey.

The figures, compiled from 120 estate agents across Northern Ireland, show significant differences in prices among various sectors of the housing market.

Marked rises in the apartment sector contrasted with falls of up to 20 per cent in sale prices for semi-detached family houses. On average, property prices reflected a 4 per cent fall. It is thought firm prices for some apartment schemes in Belfast were offsetting falls elsewhere.

The report stresses the market has not collapsed, arguing the mark-downs reflect an "incremental rather than a one-off correction". Publication of the findings follows the release yesterday of more positive data for the Northern economy.

According to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, the economy is expected to show nearly 2 per cent growth despite 12 months of the "credit crunch" and the threatened recession in the Republic.

Economist Alan Bridle, head of research at the Bank of Ireland, said: "There is no precedent in this region for what is happening in terms of a genuine housing cycle, so we are on a journey through the unknown - which itself is feeding the uncertainty." He added: "Anyone looking for the green shoots of recovery should keep an eye on transactions which are likely to turn before prices do - but it might be a while.

"The survey shows that price changes vary widely across different parts of Northern Ireland and across the types of properties, so people should be cautious about making oversimplistic judgments," he said.

"For instance, there are different factors affecting both the resale and the new-build markets."