Boost as house prices go up four per cent

THE average price of houses in Craigavon rose by four per cent in the last quarter of 2012, according to recent statistics.

At £111,418, the average price of houses in Craigavon and Armagh during the last quarter of 2012 was four per cent higher than the same period in 2011.

According to the latest University of Ulster Quarterly House Price Index, this is “a considerably improved position”.

The study’s findings have been backed by Portadown estate agent Michael Hannath, who reports improvement at both the bottom and top of the housing market in Portadown and Lurgan.

He said, “We have found a significant improvement from about last spring, and it’s across the board. The biggest improvement is still at the bottom end. The repossessions are flying, we have 20 to 30 views on some properties and five or six bidders. In some cases they are making more than their asking price.

“We don’t want to form a general opinion based on those repossessions but it’s a positive story. First-time buyers are still active and you are now seeing activity on development sites which had previously shut down.”

Mr Hannath also reports increased activity at the top end of the market. Crucially, he reports that many venders are being more realistic when choosing their asking price. A pattern of placing an unrealistic value on properties seems to have ended.

“We agreed sales on 31 properties in January in both offices (in Portadown and Lurgan) which was a great start to the new year for us,” Mr Hannath continued. “There is now sufficient evidence in the market for us to give accurate pricing. Previously venders were inclined to ask for more than the home was worth but now they are tending to go with our price, which is giving us the opportunity to generate interest and sales.

“There is also more activity at the upper end at the market, in the second half of last year we were agreeing one sale a month at the top end of the market around £200,000, compared to one a quarter two years ago.”

According to the University of Ulster report, performance is highly variable by property type with the average price of terraced/townhouses (£50,607) down by 6.8 per cent.

This is in contrast to semi-detached houses (£97,017) which are up by 3.5 per cent and detached houses (£204,998) which are up by 13.7 per cent over the year.

The figures, produced in partnership with Bank of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, recorded an increase in the number of house sales, with signs of greater stability in prices across Northern Ireland.

The overall average price of a house in the fourth quarter – October, November and December - was £138,969, virtually identical to that recorded in the third quarter and representing a small drop of 1.4 per cent over the year.

The price statistics are based on a sample of 1,357 open market transactions from a network of estate agents. This was a substantial increase in volume on recent reports and was the highest quarterly number of sales captured by the survey since the last quarter of 2007.

The authors of the report - Professor Alastair Adair, Professor Stanley McGreal, Dr David McIlhatton and Dr John McCord said, “The current survey demonstrates some encouraging signs for the Northern Ireland housing market, notably the increased volume of transactions which suggests that there is greater activity in the marketplace, and the overall price level which has held steady over the past quarter.”