Four of the top 10 most affordable UK cities for buying a home are in Northern Ireland, a report has found.
Across the UK, Lloyds Bank found the cost of a typical home in a city is at its most unaffordable level since 2009 as buyers face stretching their wages further to keep up with rising property prices.
A city home now costs 6.1 times gross average annual earnings, up from a multiple of 5.8 times average earnings 12 months ago as the housing market recovery has spread across the country, Lloyds Bank found.
But Northern Ireland appears to be bucking the trend.
Londonderry is the second most affordable UK city after Stirling in Scotland. A home in the Maiden City costs an average of just 3.92 gross average annual earnings. Belfast is at number six, on 4.49 times earnings, immediately followed by Newry at 4.51 times.
And Lisburn is at nine – 4.63 times average gross earnings.
The findings were made as a separate report from property analyst Hometrack found that cities such as Belfast, Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff all registered a strong growth in house sales in 2014 compared with their average for the previous five years.
Hometrack said that rising sales volumes were an important indication of house prices being poised to push up.
Lloyds said that affordability in UK cities was now back to the same level as in 2009, although it was still lower than at the peak of the housing boom in 2008, when the average property cost 7.2 times earnings.
Oxford is the UK’s least affordable city, with the average house price standing at £361,469, which is nearly 11 times the local wage.
Winchester, Cambridge, Chichester, and Brighton and Hove completed the top five least affordable cities list.
In Winchester and Cambridge, homes cost around 10 times local earnings, while in Chichester and Brighton and Hove they cost more than nine times earnings.
Greater London comes not far behind, with a home there costing around 8.75 times average earnings in the capital.
With an average price of £158,645, Stirling remains the UK’s most affordable city, with a property there costing around 3.9 times gross average annual earnings, according to Lloyds’ Affordable Cities Review.
Meanwhile, compared with 2013, cities such as Cambridge, Aberdeen, Oxford and London which have all already seen a strong increase in house prices as the recovery has taken hold, saw the volume of sales slow down in 2014, Hometrack said.
As buyers in these cities reach the limits of what they can afford to pay, Hometrack said that the falling sales volumes in these cities are now feeding into a slowing in the rate of price growth.
Lloyds said that house prices in Aberdeen have already shot up by 88% over the last decade.
More recently, London has been the top house price performer, with strong interest from wealthy overseas investors looking for a safe haven for their cash as the economic downturn took hold. The average London property has seen its value increase by 40% over the last five years.
Andy Hulme, Lloyds Bank mortgages director, said: “House price rises in the past two years have resulted in a deterioration in home affordability in the majority of UK cities, and generally widening the north/south affordability divide as the market has been strongest in the south.
“The UK’s most successful cities economically have tended to see the strongest property price rises.”
The UK’s top 10 most affordable cities, with the price to local earnings ratio:
1. Stirling, Scotland, 3.85
2. Londonderry, 3.92
3. Lancaster, North West, 4.03
4. Bradford, Yorkshire and the Humber, 4.17
5. Hereford, West Midlands, 4.42
6. Belfast, 4.49
7. Newry, 4.51
8. Salford, North West, 4.56
9. Lisburn, 4.63
10. Durham, North, 4.70
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