Housing activity boosts N. Ireland confidence

Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK to see a rise in house purchase loans in the final quarter of 2011, according to new data from the Council of Mortgage Lenders in Northern Ireland.

The 2,500 house purchase loans, worth £240 million, increased 4% by number and value from the third quarter of the year. The number of loans represented an increase of 4% (with no change in the value) from the last quarter of 2010.

UK wide, lending for house purchase in the final quarter of the year fell 5% by volume and 7% by value from the previous quarter but grew 1% by volume and 3% by value compared to the last quarter of 2010.

1,800 loans for remortgage were taken out in Northern Ireland in the fourth quarter, down 10% from the previous quarter but up 20% from the final quarter of 2010. By value, those remortgaging borrowed £170 million in the last quarter of the year, down 6% from the third quarter but up 13% from the year before.

UK-wide, remortgage lending fell 9% by number and 8% by value from the previous quarter, but increased 8% by volume and 11% by value from the last quarter of 2010.

Over 2011 as a whole, Northern Ireland accounted for just under 2% of the total UK house purchase and remortgage market. Overall in 2011, the number of loans for house purchase in Northern Ireland, at 8,800 loans, was down by 11%. However, the 7,200 remortgage loans taken out represented a 1% increase from 2010.

The number of first-time buyers in Northern Ireland stayed at 1,400 from the third quarter to the final quarter and increased from 1,100 in the last quarter of 2010. By value, first-time buyers borrowed £120 million in the fourth quarter, up from £110 million in the previous quarter and the final quarter of the previous year. For 2011 as a whole, 4,900 loans were advanced to first-time buyers, worth £400 million, up in number from 4,700 the previous year but the value of loans was down from £430 million.

Derek Wilson, chair of CML Northern Ireland, said: “The increase in house purchase loans is a much needed confidence boost to the market in Northern Ireland. Lack of job security and underlying economic uncertainty have led to a lack of demand for mortgages