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Northern Ireland’s housing market ‘boosted by sales rise’

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Northern Ireland house sales rose by over a third last quarter, providing further evidence the battered market is beginning to recover.

New figures published today show there were 950 transactions from April to June, compared to 692 in the previous three months.

While the volume of sales is still low in comparison with normal market conditions, the quarterly increase hints that the worst of the slump is over, according to authors of the University of Ulster bulletin.

The university’s Quarterly House Price Index puts the average cost of a house in Northern Ireland at £158,886.

This is down only 0.5% on the last quarter – a significantly lower rate of decline than the 10.8% drop in price experienced between January and March.

Co-author of the report Professor Alastair Adair said there were signs that the market was becoming reinvigorated.

“This survey provides the first tangible evidence that the housing market is starting the process of recovery -transactions, although still below normal market conditions are up, the rate of price decline is reducing and growth has occurred in some market sectors during the second quarter of 2009,” he said.

The UU research, which is produced in partnership with the Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, records all open market transactions and also notes anecdotal evidence of market activity from 120 estate agents across the region.

Last quarter it also found that almost a fifth of properties were selling at or below £100,000, with almost two thirds selling at or below £150,000.

Head of Research at Bank of Ireland Northern Ireland, Alan Bridle said: “This latest survey provides some encouragement that the two year-old housing recession in Northern Ireland may be coming to an end with evidence of both price stability and an increasing level of activity in the last three months.

“The results also chime strongly with the improving sentiment being reflected in various UK-wide readings of the residential market, qualified of course by recognition of the severity of this particular downturn.”

The Housing Executive’s Head of Research, Joe Frey gave the report a cautious welcome.

“The first indications of stabilisation in the market are certainly welcome,” she said.

“However, it is important to be cautious at this stage. First-time buyers often have to find deposits of 25 per cent and there are still considerable numbers of unsold new properties on the market. There is still some way to go before a more balanced market emerges.”