Property prices rising at the fastest pace in seven years
PROPERTY prices rose last month at the fastest pace in almost seven years.
And economists said a broad-based recovery across the country was now in place.
The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show that prices jumped by 8.1pc in the year to February.
It was the ninth month in a row that prices rose across the country when compared with last year.
A strong rise in property values outside Dublin compensated for a small fall in Dublin.
Prices outside the capital were up 4.2pc in February compared with the same month last year, the second month in a row that prices rose when compared with the same month a year previously.
In Dublin, prices fell by 0.6pc in the month, but were 13.3pc higher in February when compared with the same month last year, the CSO said.
It was the second monthly fall for Dublin prices, and is despite estate agents saying there is a chronic shortage of properties for sale in the capital and its surroundings.
Rising prices are good news for existing homeowners as around half of those with a mortgage are in negative equity, where the value of their home loans is greater than the value of their properties.
But prospective first-time buyers are being priced out of the market by rising prices, particularly in urban areas.
"While the recovery in the Dublin market has been established for some time, it is encouraging that a broader-based recovery is now in train across the country," he said.
He said price rises appeared to have eased in the capital, but there were now signs of a pick-up in prices across the country.
But the shortage of homes for sale in Dublin will mean that prices will be pushed up in the coming year, Mr O'Leary said.
The economist said in the past three months the number of sales was up 21pc, with growth in all but three counties, according to separate data from the Property Price Register.
"Strong employment growth, rising consumer confidence and continued low interest rates should all support recovery in the Irish housing market," Mr O'Leary said.
Economist with Merrion Stockbrokers Alan McQuaid said the new figures were better than expected.
And he said the housing market was probably stronger than the official figures indicated because up to half of sales were in cash, and this was not captured by the CSO property price index.
"The overall pick-up in the housing market has been quicker and more sustained than we had expected and there was an average rise in house prices of 1.8pc in 2013 for the first time in six years, when most analysts were talking about another year of decline at the start of last year," he said.