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NI house prices 'up by almost 5% in past year' despite 'volatile' economic conditions

NI house prices 'up by almost 5% in past year' despite 'volatile' economic conditions

Average house prices in Northern Ireland have climbed by nearly 5% in the last year despite a “volatile” economic environment, a report has said.

The quarterly house price index from Ulster University said homes were now costing on average £205,545. That was up 2.4% on the previous quarter, and a jump of 4.7% on July to September in 2022.

There was quarterly house price growth in eight out of 11 local government districts.

But Causeway Coast & Glens, Derry City and Strabane and Fermanagh & Omagh all reported falls of 12%.

The continued increases in average house prices were coming despite 14 consecutive interest rate rises to 5.25%, which have added to the cost of mortgages.

And reflecting rising rates, there had been a 30% decline in mortgage approvals in September, UU said.

But the university, which carries out the survey with Progressive Building Society and the NI Housing Executive, said a lack of housing supply in the province meant that prices were still going up.

Yet there were some signs of a cooling-down in the market, with weakening demand and buyer enquiries, as well as a slowdown in new homes coming up for sale.

Dr Michael McCord, reader in real estate valuation at Ulster University and lead researcher on the report, said: “The housing market continues to remain resilient despite the ongoing volatile economic setting, interest rate and mortgage lending environments.

“House prices showed a small increase in the third quarter of the year invariably due to underpinning microeconomic market fundamentals — namely the lack of supply, which continues help prop prices up.

“There are signals of weakening demand, however, with noticeable reductions in new listings and buyer enquires as consumer confidence wanes and potential buyers hit the pause button to see where interest rates go over the next few quarters.

“This is reflected in mortgage lending statistics which show approval rates down 30% in September.

“Market evidence does nonetheless indicate that lenders believe that interest rates may have peaked with a number of providers repricing mortgage deals more cheaply.”

And he said the future of the market depended on whether the UK entered recession.

That could be influenced by whether the Bank of England adjusts interest rates, which have been maintained at 5.25% through the last two meetings of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

The MPC’s decision would in turn depend on inflation statistics, which are due on Wednesday. The Consumer Prices Index rate was 6.7% in the 12 months to September 2023.

Mr McCord said: “In such a dynamic market setting, the tables could turn at any moment, especially with the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas.”

Michael Boyd, chief executive of Progressive Building Society, said the third quarter performance had been “relatively positive” with marginal gains “despite still-high interest rates and concerns of wider economic malaise”.

“The tight supply picture is undoubtedly providing underlying support and looks likely to continuing doing so in the near future, as is the recent pause in interest rate hikes by the Bank of England.

“However, headwinds persist in the form of worries that further interest rate rises may be on the horizon and signs the wider economy may be weakening. The future direction for the market will be dependent on these competing factors.”

Source: Belfast Telegraph - Margaret Canning