The number of people buying homes for the first time is at its highest level in almost 10 years in Northern Ireland, according to new figures.
First-time buyers were advanced 7,500 loans in 2014, the highest level of borrowing in that bracket since 2006.
It was an increase of 25% from 6,000 loans in 2013, and well over double first-time buyer activity in 2008.
Across the board, homeowners took out 13,000 loans in 2014, an increase of 30% on 2013.
These mortgages totalled £1.3bn, a 40% rise on the previous year, according to figures from the Council for Mortgage Lenders (CML).
Derek Wilson, chairman of CML Northern Ireland, said: “It is very encouraging to see the growth in the Northern Irish market in 2014, especially with the number of people buying their first homes being at its highest level since 2006.
“Lending has come a long way this year, and unlike the UK overall, Northern Ireland saw quarter-on-quarter growth in all lending types which is positive news for the future of the market.” Home movers, meanwhile, took out 5,500 loans – an increase of 38%, while remortgage lending was unchanged at 4,700 loans.
Richard Ramsey, chief economist at Ulster Bank, said: “First-time buyer figures are encouraging but from a housing market recovery perspective it is important to look at the home mover market.
“It appears to be showing further signs of recovery in 2014. Further growth in both first-time buyer and home mover activity is anticipated in 2015.”
Stephen Bloomfield, Danske Bank’s deputy managing director of personal banking, said the improvement in the number of first-time buyers getting on the property ladder was down to the record low 0.5% interest rate, as well as the housing market providing value for money.
“The number of first-time buyers is at its highest level since 2006 and that’s down to the low interest rate environment, houses being good value for money and general levels of affordability – particularly in the first-time buyer bracket. All of these conditions are conducive to an overall improving housing market which is why home mover activity has also increased.”
Mr Bloomfield said a 9% increase in remortgage loans in the fourth quarter of the year was “encouraging”, as they previously been stuck at a a relatively flat level.
“Sluggish remortgage activity can suggest that consumers are not shopping around for the best deal and moving their mortgage when there is an opportunity to save money.
“And yet it is a great opportunity for consumers as the mortgage market is extremely competitive, with new product offerings and highly competitive rates being announced every week.”
The median loan amount for first-time buyers was £78,691, up from £70,000 in 2013, and the median borrower income was £27,000, up in 2014 from £24,771 the previous year.
In the fourth quarter of 2014, 2,000 loans were taken out by first-time buyers, up 5% on the third quarter of last year. Home movers’ loans increased by 7% to 1,600, and remortgages rose by 9% to 1,200 loans.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the average house price in Northern Ireland was £142,000 in December. This was an increase of 4.9% on the same month in 2013.
November last year saw the biggest year-on-year rise – 11.7% – here since 2007.
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Caption: On the ladder: first-time buying activity has doubled since 2008