Boom or bust?

We are, it seems, on the precipice of another house price boom. The Office for National Statistics reports that house prices in Northern Ireland rose by 7.5% in the last year, clearly moving towards boom territory.

But if you look at the figures closely a different picture emerges. Northern Ireland was the only UK region where average house prices actually fell significantly in March, dropping from £153,000 to £145,000 in a month.

This was still some way above the £131,000 average of a year ago. So perhaps we should look elsewhere to make sense of this. The latest NI Residential Property Price Index was also published this week. It presents a broadly similar picture. Average prices rose by 6% in the year, while falling by 1% in the last quarter. Significantly, this index suggests a markedly different situation in various parts of Northern Ireland.

Average prices in outer Belfast are much higher, while prices are growing fastest in the most Northerly parts of NI – from a lower base.

This could mean there has been a strong recovery in the housing market, but that things have levelled off. Except there was a third property market review published in the last week – from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, who really should know what they are talking about.

RICS’ members predict further price rises. The conclusion is simple. Northern Ireland’s house prices may be going up, they may be falling, or they might have stabilised. Take your pick.

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