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Demand from new home buyers in NI ‘at its highest in two years’
Demand from new buyers of housing in Northern Ireland soared at its fastest rate in two years during January, a key report said.
The latest residential market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank also said its members in Northern Ireland were growing more optimistic about the outlook for sales in the short term.
A net balance of 35% of respondents reported that new buyer queries went up in January, the fifth month in a row in which they have been positive about demand and the highest since January 2022.
A lower positive balance also reported a rise in sales during the month – relatively unchanged from December's figure.
However, the jump in new buyer interest meant that people were more optimistic about the outlook for the future than they had been.
With a net balance of 34% of surveyors anticipating rising sales in the next three months, that was much more optimistic than in the UK as a whole, where a net balance of 14% were expecting an increase in sales.
And surveyors were also optimistic about the year ahead, with a net balance of 67% expecting prices to be higher this time next year – compared to the next highest balance of 46% for England and Wales.
A net balance of 40% of surveyors also expect sales activity to be higher in a year’s time.
Samuel Dickey, RICS Northern Ireland residential property Spokesman, said: “It’s encouraging to see that surveyors in NI are remaining optimistic.
"The easing in mortgage rates has no doubt alleviated some of the pressures seen in the housing market, and this is perhaps why we’re seeing some increased demand.
"And Northern Ireland respondents are still more confident about prices over the next 12 months than their counterparts elsewhere in England, Scotland and Wales, anticipating some upward movement.”
Terry Robb, head of personal banking at Ulster Bank, added: “2024 began with good demand through January and we expect that this will continue in the coming months. Ulster Bank remains strongly committed to supporting homebuyers and remortgagers in 2024.
"We recently reduced the rates on our new business and existing customer product ranges, which included rate reductions on two and five year deals for purchase and remortgage, as well as on our green mortgages.
"There continues to be a wide range of mortgage borrowers who want to buy their first home, move house, or remortgage, and it’s important that they continue to be able to avail of mortgage products that meet their needs.”
Tarrant Parsons, RICS senior economist in the UK, added: “The UK housing market has seen a continued improvement in buyer activity through the early part of the year, supported by the recent easing in mortgage interest rates. Although sales volumes through much of the year ahead are likely to remain relatively subdued compared to the longer-term average, the outlook has now turned modestly brighter on a consistent basis over the past few survey reports.
“However, this is not to say that mortgage affordability isn’t still a significant challenge, and any further unwelcome surprises with regards to inflation may still cause interest rate expectations to be revised.
"That would then pose a significant risk to any prospective recovery in the months ahead, even if the current prognosis is for the market to see a further pick-up in activity levels.”
Source: Belfast Telegraph - Business Northern Ireland