First sign of stability in housing market

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THE average house price in East Antrim has fallen by almost one fifth during the past 12 months.

According to the latest Ulster Quarterly House Price Index, this figure is down 19.7 per cent to £100,722 in the district.

The report has been published in association with the Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Authors Professor Alastair Adair, Professor Stanley McGreal and Dr. David McIlhatton said that the results “re-emphasise that recovery in the market is slow and while there is some suggestion of improved price performance in parts of Northern Ireland, and for certain property types, the market is “still to the downside” with a “modest” price rise, recorded in the second quarter, not repeated.”

Larne estate agent Jayne Sives, of Sives Properties, said she believed that Northern Ireland has experienced the “worst property crash in the world” with a decrease in value of 62 per cent since August 2007.

She suggested that figures available locally would reflect this. For example, she recalled the sale of a two-bedroom apartment in Walnut Hollow for £138,000 at the peak of the market, in 2007, but said she believed that this property today would be “lucky” to achieve £50,000.

She continued: “The figures shown in the report quote an average price of just over £100,000 for the East Antrim area. This would concur with our own figures, although unfortunately, the Larne area may have a slightly lower average as it has always traditionally been a cheaper town in which to buy property.”

Mark Clark, Partner, at Brian Todd and Co, said: “Certainly, we are seeing price falls this year again, but in the last quarter, for the first time, in a long time, we are starting to see stability in prices.”

Mr. Clark suggested that prices had reached the “bottom of the curve at the bottom end of the market”.

“We are starting to see investors and first-time buyers coming into the market in greater quantity. Activity levels are up. It seems that people are coming back into the market to buy. It will be a very gradual recovery but we have to start somewhere.”

Indeed the report says 41 per cent of houses in the survey sold for £100,000 or less, suggests that “considerable value exists in the local market”.

Overall, 72 per cent of sales were at or below £150,000, “confirming the improved affordability of housing in Northern Ireland.”

Alan Bridle, UK Economist at Bank of Ireland UK, said: “The UK and global economic backdrop for the housing market in general is likely to remain difficult, while all available evidence paints a more challenging picture for the Northern Ireland economy, especially for employment and consumer confidence.

“While there are some signs of encouragement, the reality in the short term is that local market conditions are likely to remain fairly subdued until there is a sustained improvement in the wider economic environment.”

The Housing Executive’s Head of Research, Joe Frey, said: “There is no doubt that the housing market will continue to remain subdued for the foreseeable future, due in particular to uncertainties in the labour market.”