House survey shows prices in North are holding up

Domestic uncertainty not affecting North’s house prices as those in rest of UK fall!

Political uncertainty stifled house price growth across the UK last month but Northern Ireland proved to be the exception, according to a new survey, which shows local surveyors saw a rise in prices rather than a slump.

The latest UK residential market survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), published on Thursday, points to domestic political uncertainty as the key factor behind a further drop in house price inflation in the UK.

The RICS said the number of agreed residential property sales in the UK fell in June as new-buyer instructions slumped and fewer homeowners decided to put their property on the market.

It said most parts of the UK showed a “generally flat trend” in house sales, with central London in particular recording a further deterioration in residential property prices driven by “the political climate, Brexit and the changes in stamp duty”.

It said Northern Ireland now had the “most buoyant” housing market in the UK, with rising prices and healthy sales expectations.

Its Northern Ireland survey, carried out in conjunction with Ulster Bank, shows that across a range of measures – inquiries, prices and expectations – Northern Ireland is ahead of the UK in general.

The RICS also found that in the North there was a fresh jump in the number of newly-agreed sales last month, which had previously dipped in May.

Upbeat market

Samuel Dickey, is the RICS residential property spokesman in the North. He said the local market had performed better than some expected in the first half of the year.

Mr Dickey said an upbeat property market in June had also helped create expectations for the next six months ahead, although he said there could be some challenges.

“As we move into the latter half of the year there continues to be some political uncertainty, and consumers will feel something of a squeeze from rising inflation. However, the latest survey suggests that there is still momentum in the local housing market and that surveyors remain positive about the outlook.”

According to Sean Murphy, managing director of personal banking at Ulster Bank Northern Ireland, residential property remained relatively affordable in the North. He said Northern Ireland still had a strong culture of people wanting to “own their own home”.


Belfast ‘built-to-rent’ apartment block announced

A developer has announced plans for Belfast’s first large scale “build-to-rent” housing scheme.

It is a model where flats are built purely for private rent, with the building owned by a large investor.

It has been encouraged by the UK government as a way to increase the supply of rental properties.

Lacuna Developments and Watkin Jones are planning to develop a 19-storey block of flats on Academy Street, close to the Ulster University campus.

The same firms have been among the biggest developers of purpose-built student accommodation in the city, selling their student schemes to major institutional investors.

The Academy Street scheme would consist of about 120 flats run by a management company.

Mark Watkin Jones of Watkin Jones said build-to-rent was a “proven model” in other major UK and Irish cities.

Anthony Best, Director of Lacuna Developments, said Belfast has one of the lowest city centre populations in Europe.

He said the scheme would contribute to the council’s target of increasing the number of city centre residents.

Lacuna and Watkin Jones will now undertake a 12-week pre-planning application community consultation.

A public exhibition will be held later at The Arc (Arts Resource Centre) on Donegall Street Place.

Official figures suggest almost a fifth of of households in Northern Ireland live in the private rented sector.

It is essentially a cottage industry dominated by thousands of individual landlords renting out a single property.

So this new development, with a single professional landlord owning 100 or more flats in one block, would be a big change.

However, it will only be a microscopic section of a market which consists of more than 125,000 dwellings.


Average house price rises to £211,671 as property market growth continues

HOUSE prices are predicted to grow by around 2 per cent across 2017, according to a report showing that property values continued to head upwards in July.

Across the UK, the average house price reached £211,671 in July – a new record for Nationwide Building Society’s index.

Property values increased by 0.3 per cent month on month and by 2.9 per cent annually. A year earlier, in July 2016, annual house price growth was running at a stronger pace of 5.2 per cent.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s chief economist, said a lack of homes for sale is helping to support house price growth – although he also said it could become more of a buyers’ market in the coming months.

He said prices are expected to rise by around 2 per cent over 2017 as a whole – “only modestly lower than the levels recorded in recent months”.

Mr Gardner said: “A lack of homes on the market appears to be providing support, with annual house price growth remaining only just outside the 3 per cent-6 per cent range, that has been prevailing for most of the past two years.

“This pattern looks set to be maintained in the near term. Survey data point to relatively sluggish levels of new buyer inquiries, but at the same time surveyors report that relatively few properties are coming on to the market.”

Mr Gardner said ultimately housing market developments will depend on wider economic performance.

He said: “While employment growth has remained relatively robust, household budgets are coming under pressure as wage growth is failing to keep up with the rising cost of living.

“This suggests that housing market activity is likely to remain subdued, with the balance in the market shifting a little further towards buyers in the quarters ahead.”

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent and a former residential chairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), said: “Fortunately there does seem an enthusiasm among serious buyers and sellers to get on with the job in hand.

“The current climate is also providing an opportunity for first-time buyers at least to better compete for smaller properties.”