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NI Housing Outlook Improves As Mortgage Rates Ease And Buyers More Active

The outlook for the Northern Ireland housing market has improved, with sales and prices expected to rise firmly in 2024, according to the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey. 

This improved outlook comes as the local housing market enjoys a strong end to 2023. According to the latest report, there was a pick-up in agreed sales in November and there was a rise in both new listings and buyer enquiries. Surveyor respondents also pointed to prices rising more firmly, with the survey’s price balance at its highest (+65%) since October 2022. 

In terms of demand, a net balance of 21% of respondents in NI reported a rise in new buyer enquiries, the highest since March 2022. Meanwhile, the net balance for new instructions to sell was at its most elevated (+24%) since June 2021. 

Unsurprisingly with both demand and supply on the rise, sales were also reported to have increased. A net balance of 48% of NI surveyors reported a rise, a figure which has been on an upward trajectory for the six most recent surveys. NI, alongside two regions in England, are the only UK regions to see this figure in a positive balance.  

Surveyors also remain optimistic about the short-term sales outlook with a net balance of 40% of surveyors anticipating sales to rise over the next three months. This is compared to the balance the same time last year which sat at -31%. Prices are also set to continue rising in the three months ahead according to surveyors with a net balance of 49% of respondents expecting an increase in prices over the next three months. 

On a 12-month horizon, a net balance of +62% of respondents expects prices to be higher in a year’s time, whilst a net balance of +31% expects the number of sales to be higher. 

Samuel Dickey, RICS Northern Ireland Residential Property Spokesman, said: “The residential property market picture continues to brighten in Northern Ireland, with more potential buyers and sales going through than had been seen earlier in the year. The limited supply is keeping prices stable, and anecdotally we’re seeing good quality housing being priced reasonably. It remains encouraging to see that surveyors in NI are still more optimistic than UK counterparts despite economic and political uncertainty.” 

Terry Robb, Head of Personal Banking at Ulster Bank, added: “According to the survey, the local housing market is ending 2023 in a much better place than it started it. In January, agreed sales were reported to be in decline, the price balance was at its lowest in years and surveyors were expecting prices and sales to fall. Fast forward to November and all of the indicators are firmly positive, with surveyors expecting prices and sales to rise into 2024. The main ongoing challenge continues to be housing supply. Whilst there now appear to be more properties coming onto the market, that is not enough. Northern Ireland continues to build too few homes and demand to buy is strong.” 

RICS Chief Economist, Simon Rubinsohn, said of the improving picture at the UK level: “This is being aided by increased confidence that the interest rate cycle has peaked which is reflected in somewhat more competitive mortgage products coming to the market.  

“However, with the cost of money likely to remain elevated for some time to come and the economic outlook still downbeat, it is not surprising that the overall tone to the anecdotal remarks from survey respondents is still quite cautious.” 

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