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Northern Ireland’s housing market picked up in May with sales and new buyer demand going up.

The upbeat findings from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank residential market survey for May follow a more negative picture for April.

There was a net balance of 17% of respondents – the proportion reporting a rise in prices minus those reporting a fall – who said that house sales had gone up, which was an improvement on April.

Despite a challenging economic landscape, surveyors were fairly optimistic about the outlook for sales, with a net balance of 11% expecting sales to go up in the next three months.

And for the third month in a row, there were reports of a rise in enquiries from new buyers. A net balance of 18% said there had been an increase, compared to -22% in January.

And the supply of properties coming onto the market had also edged upwards, with a net balance of 9% saying there were more houses.

There was a net balance of a third of surveyors who said prices were up, and an expectation that prices would rise again in the next three months.

Surveyors in Northern Ireland are more optimistic about the outlook when compared to the UK average, where a net balance of -29% expect prices to fall over the next quarter. But those UK-wide expectations are becoming more optimistic after hitting a record low of -46% in February.

Samuel Dickey, RICS Northern Ireland residential property spokesman, said: “It is encouraging that surveyors reported a pick-up in agree sales in May having seen a dip in April.

“Otherwise, indicators appear relatively steady with values continuing to hold and indeed if anything edge upwards.

“Surveyors are also continuing to report seeing new buyers active in the market, which bodes well for activity. Comparing the latest survey to the wider UK results, overall, surveyors in NI continue to be more optimistic about the next number of months.”

Terry Robb, head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, added: “We are active in the market with a wide choice of products to support borrowers, including our green mortgage which offers discounted rates when purchasing an energy efficient home.

"We are also offering £500 cash-back on selected products. Whilst the market is very different from this time last year, we are still seeing good interest which tallies with the pick-up in newly agreed sales reported in the last survey.”

The UK-wide report showed some signs of optimism, breaking 13 months in a row of new instructions falling rather than rising. Housing market demand was also at its least negative level in a year in May.

The RICS reports follow findings from building society Halifax that average house price growth UK-wide had turned negative for the first time since 2012 in May.

Across the UK, house prices fell by 1.0% on average, Halifax said, the first annual decline since December 2012.

The average house price remained flat month on month, with 0.0% growth in May, sitting at £286,532.

Source: Belfast Telegraph, Margaret Canning, 8th June 2023