Modest price rises ‘boost’ to help first time house buyers

Modest price rises ‘boost’ to help first time house buyers

8 January 2020

A DOWNPATRICK estate agent has welcomed a leading mortgage provider’s findings that claimed house prices in the Newry, Mourne and Down area remain the “most modest” in the UK.

John Thompson from Ulster Property Sales says the report from the Halifax is good news for first time buyers.

He said the report, which states that house prices locally have seen the smallest percentage increase in the UK over the last 20 years, bodes well for the local housing market.

Mr Thompson, a veteran of the industry – with 45 years’ experience of selling homes, said: “House prices remain affordable in Newry Mourne and Down and this is great news.”

He explained: “Prices are driven by a buoyant rental market which in turn underpins the buyers market. With interest rates being relatively low, young couples see that a month’s rent could afford them a monthly mortgage repayment.”

According to the Halifax report, 20 years ago the average house in Newry Mourne and Down cost £78,843. In 2019 the average price increased by 106% to £162,222, putting the area firmly at the bottom of the UK table. 

Over the same period the average house price in the UK increased by 207%, with Northern Ireland seeing a 139% increase over the same period. 

However, Mr Thompson described the housing market as “delicately balanced” and did not like uncertainty.

He said: “In recent years we have seen a dramatic growth in the rise of temporary positions across a number of professions, including banking and teaching. 

“While they are well paid positions, it means these young people are unable to attain a mortgage.”

Despite this, Mr Thompson says he has been seeing a growth in first time buyers lately.

He said: “Prices are still reasonably affordable and are in line with wages – this is what we estate agents call ‘an appropriate multiple’. 

“So the cost of a mortgage still remains very competitive. I recall a period in the mid 1990s when interest rates reached 15% which caused much uncertainty in the market.

“We also have great schools across Co Down and this is attracting young couples from England to relocate here.”

Mr Thompson said one area  of concern was the impact Brexit may have on the property market.

He remarked: “The elephant in the market now is Brexit and it has caused the pause button to be pushed. We are still waiting as to what the up side and the down side will be. 

“We will soon have some clarity with the Brexit deadline on January 31 and this should help to stabilise the situation.”