Thursday, 22 February 2024

Part of the United Kingdom where housing prices are rising while in the rest of the country they are falling

Part of the United Kingdom where housing prices are rising while in the rest of the country they are falling
Thursday, 09 November 2023 22:00

The market remains stable compared to the rest of Britain as citizens are returning to the region.

It seemed like the stars aligned in anticipation of James Thomson and his wife Ashley's move to East Belfast from Portsmouth in August.

After spending 20 years on the south coast while James served in the Royal Navy, the couple decided to move to Northern Ireland when Ashley, originally from Ballymena in County Antrim, was offered a teaching job in Belfast.

A native of Kent, Mr. Thomson retrained as a personal trainer a couple of years ago, retiring from the military and working part-time while raising their 10-year-old son, Josh.

After Mrs. Thomson was offered her position, Josh secured a place in a local school, and David Lloyd, the representative of the gym where James worked, said they could transfer him to a position at their branch in the same part of town.

"So, all of this happened over the course of two or three months. Around April, our house was put up for sale," James says. "Of course, it coincided with the mortgage crisis and the cost of living crisis, and for a while, everything was a bit tense."

Not daunted, Mr. Thomson went house hunting and found plenty of new developments and options in their price range.

"We paid off the mortgage, and it costs the same as our old house. But because of the difference in property prices, this new building is slightly larger, with modern technology, including solar panels. Plus, a new kitchen. Our old home was 20 years old, so we essentially traded it for a new model."

They hope, James says, that as the region benefits from an influx of investment, housing prices will continue to rise, and they will reap the rewards in the future.

Young, professional citizens of Northern Ireland are returning to the region, enticed by lower housing prices, more space, and the ability to work from home with occasional trips back to the UK when necessary.

Partly, they are the reason why housing price growth in Northern Ireland remains more stable than in other regions of Britain, despite rising mortgage rates and broader restrictions for buyers.

Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, says, "Rising rents due to acute housing shortages in Dublin have led to increased interest in Northern Ireland's property."

"Remote work has allowed Northern Irish workers to access cheaper housing in the north compared to the south. Private sector rents in Dublin have reached absurd levels."

"People can get from towns like Newry in Northern Ireland to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland in an hour by train," he adds.

According to Her Majesty's Land Registry, house prices in Northern Ireland rose by 2.7% from the beginning of the year to August. Over a 12-month period, only homes in the northeast of England showed higher price growth.

Prices in Northern Ireland also rose by 1.3% in July, the highest monthly increase among all regions of the UK.

"Our average property prices have been rising since June 2013, marking the beginning of recovery after the crisis," says Samuel Dickey, Director of the Simon Brien Residential estate agency. "There was a dip after the mini-budget, but we've gained a lot after Covid."

"Before Covid, we didn't have a big influx of people from the UK, but we had a lot of people returning from England, possibly going to university, reuniting, and bringing their significant others with them."

One of them is Patricia Burns, a lawyer who moved back to her hometown of Belfast with her family at the end of 2022.

After studying at the University of Cambridge and living in London, where she and her husband started a family, the opportunity to buy a larger property and be closer to family lured her into finding a home.

"Deep down, I always hoped I could move back home, but I increasingly thought, 'This won't happen unless I give up my career and my place in the London chambers.'"

"And it was Covid that made it a reality, as I continue to perform my current role," says Mrs. Burns.

As a commercial lawyer, she says most of her work involves paperwork, and she only needs to go to London once a month.

Mrs. Burns and her husband now have two children: a three-year-old and a newborn. They know that working conditions could complicate the task further when she has to go to London for a longer period, but "all things considered, it's a great situation," she says.

"Property prices, great schools, fresh air, and proximity to family - that's why we moved."

According to the latest Halifax House Price Index, there has been an annual decrease in house prices in all regions of the UK over the past year. In Northern Ireland, prices fell by 0.5% over the 12 months to October, much less than the largest drop in Southeast England, where prices fell by 6% during the same period.

Local residents say that schools are also cheaper, and the pace of life is more attractive compared to London or other major cities in England.

James Thomson Mr. Thomson hopes that as housing prices continue to rise, he will continue to reap the benefits in the future. Photo: Patrick Bolger

"One of the main advantages of Northern Ireland is that it's a great place to live with a great pace of life. There are excellent schools here, and in Belfast, it's great that everything is so close. The population is 1.8 million people, fewer traffic jams, and open fields - it reminds me of Kent in some ways," Mr. Dickey adds.

Not only young couples are enjoying what the region has to offer. On the north coast of Antrim, property prices have risen over the past 12 months as retirees return to the island and compete for homes in a popular vacation spot.

"They've seen a huge rise in property prices," says Beth Robinson, Director of the Templeton Robinson estate agency.

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