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Northern Ireland housing market optimism

Renewed optimism from buyers and sellers led to a pick-up in sales activity in the Northern Ireland housing market, according to the January RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) and Ulster Bank Northern Ireland Residential Market Survey. 

The balance of Northern Ireland respondents reported that newly agreed sales increased for the first time since October as both new buyer enquiries and instructions to sell picked up. 

Looking ahead, respondents to the survey expect this refreshed optimism to continue with sales anticipated to rise in Northern Ireland, both in the near term and for the year to come. Indeed, the three-month sales expectations balance is now at its highest level in 17-months. 

As sales activity improved through, house price pressure appears to be continuing to build. The Northern Ireland price balance moved to +56 percent which is the highest of the UK regions and the strongest in six months.

Despite the pick-up in instructions to sell in January, the availability of housing stock remains the main challenge in the market, given the prolonged period over recent years when instructions to sell were significantly constrained. Indeed, anecdotally, respondents to the survey say that there is still an insufficient supply of resale properties.

Samuel Dickey, RICS Residential Property Spokesman in Northern Ireland, said: “There has been a clear improvement in sentiment in the housing market with local as well as national political developments likely to be a factor. The rise in new sales instructions coming onto the market is a noteworthy and much needed development, given the lack of fresh listings over the past few years. Political uncertainty may resurface towards the end of the year but, at this point in time, contributors are optimistic regarding the outlook for activity over the next twelve months.”

Terry Robb, Head of Personal Banking at Ulster Bank, said: “There has been a noticeable increase in mortgage enquiries and interest in the early part of the year, with a sense of renewed confidence in the market. This will likely translate into good sales activity in the months ahead, particularly if more homes come onto the market and available for sale.”

The main findings of the survey were

  • The net balance of respondents reporting a rise in house prices over the last 3 months was +56%, the highest since July 2019
  • The net balance for price expectations in the next three months is +40% and the net balance for sales expectations is +49%.
  • New buyer enquiries rose in January according to a net balance of 59% of respondents
  • New instructions to sell rose according to the net balance of +63% of Northern Ireland surveyors responding to the survey
  • The net balance for newly agreed sales was +49%, pointing to a pick-up in sales activity in January; the first positive net balance for newly agreed sales since October