19 August 2013

Why a three-bedroom semi has become the new des res


Wanted: Three-bedroom semi-detached houses.

Belfast estate agency, Hampton Estates, is actively advertising for owners of traditional three-bedroom semis to sell up.

The family homes were one of the most popular type of properties changing hands at the height of the economic boom.

But thousands of owners are now trapped in negative equity and unable to move up, leaving a shortage of semis for sale.

One independent expert says moving these owners is key to unlocking the market, which currently appears to be blocked.

Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Northern Ireland spokesman Tom McLelland said thousands of would-be ‘second-steppers’ are stuck on the first rung of the property ladder.

He added: “Prices are now down to what ordinary people can afford to buy but the ability to trade up has been lost to a generation of first-time buyers.

“First-time buyers who bought between 2002 and 2012 have very little equity in their houses, some are in negative equity and their salaries have also been squeezed.

“Compare that to 10 years prior, when people who bought had a reasonable expectation that, in a few years, inflation would give them a nest egg to move up and they could trade up because their house had gone up in value and their wages had gone up.

“Today, however, there’s a squeeze on wages.

“Salaries haven’t appreciated significantly and that’s why house prices have dropped to levels that people can afford to buy.”

Last week a University of Ulster report on the housing market suggested there were signs of improvement thanks to an influx of first-time buyers.

It found that the number of sales has been sustained for a second consecutive quarter, while the average price was £130,864, virtually unchanged from the previous quarter (£131,128).

Will Miscampbell from Fetherston Clements Estate Agents said the growth was heartening for vendors and those who have been keen to buy property.

He added: “What we are seeing on the ground would point to the fact that the market has turned and we should begin to see more widespread positive movement in pricing soon.”

The full impact of the property crash was laid bare earlier this year after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that one in three households is in negative equity.

Statistics from the Council of Mortgage Lenders showed the region has by far the highest level of negative equity in the UK, with some 69,000, or 35%, of homes worth less than their mortgage.

Estate agent John Minnis challenged the idea that the housing market is blocked and said the situation is improving.

He said: “Demand is outweighing supply at the minute and that’s the bottom line.

“There are people in negative equity but there are mechanisms and mortgage products in place now to address that.

“A lot of people I’m dealing with now are keeping the house they have which is in negative equity, renting it out, and buying on.”

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