Friday 28 November 2014

Cash buyers move out as families start trading up

Published 26/08/2014 | 02:30

Thousands of families who have been stuck with unsuitable properties are beginning to consider a move
Thousands of families who have been stuck with unsuitable properties are beginning to consider a move

THE number of families taking out mortgages and moving home has surged, as thousands of properties are lifted out of negative equity by rising prices.

Mortgages have moved ahead of cash buyers for the first time since the recovery began, and people who are moving home now represent a third of all property transactions.

An industry report today reveals a remarkable turnaround in the property market, raising hope that it is finally returning to some normality.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) found that people with mortgages now account for almost two-thirds of transactions overall.

Meanwhile, cash buyers - who dominated the market for the past three years - have been reduced from a 50pc share to 35pc in just three months.

Freed from the shackles of negative equity, and with banks lending more freely once again, thousands of families who have been stuck with unsuitable properties are beginning to consider a move.

Young people are also eager to get on the property ladder, although there is still a shortage of supply in urban areas.

The report shows that first-time buyers accounted for 43.8pc of sales transactions, while "movers" - those selling a house in order to buy - accounted for 29pc overall.

Buyers with mortgages accounted for just 50pc of home sales in the first quarter, but this rose to 62pc in the second quarter of this year.

The main reasons given for the rapid change are:

• An increase in mortgage lending across the board.

• New bank products which have allowed those with tracker mortgages to move home without losing their benefits.

• Two years of increasing property prices in Dublin which have freed today's "movers" from negative equity.

The growing number of people moving house is particularly important for the recovery of the property market.

The whole system relies on those who already own homes to sell up and trade up, in order to keep buyer chains moving.

First time buyers currently need homeowners to sell in numbers in order to gain their first step on the housing ladder.

This has not been happening in Ireland for years, because owners felt trapped by negative equity and may not have been able to get a suitable loan even if they had wanted to move.

But it has recently been estimated by the ESRI that rising prices have lifted 45,000 people out of negative equity since the beginning of this year. And the survey shows evidence that banks are finally relaxing their ultra strict lending criteria amidst growing confidence in the future of property values.

With so many people on tracker mortgages, few were previously prepared to sell their homes and lose the generous benefits. But with "movers" now accounting for almost one in three of sales, this situation has become more fluid.

Meanwhile 22pc of homes were bought by buy-to-let investors, a sign that yields are still attractive.

The strong numbers of investor purchases will impact positively on the lettings market where rents have been soaring and pushing poorer families out of their accommodation.

The resulting increase in rental properties will help soften rental prices going forward.

The report, which covers the last two quarters, shows that houses accounted for 74pc of sales overall - suggesting that the vast majority of demand is still for family sized accommodation rather than apartments.

The report also states that confidence in the market looks set to continue across the country with 90pc of the 90 auctioneering firms surveyed expecting prices to keep rising in the next 12 months.

Simon Stokes, Chair of the Residential Property group of the SCSI, said that the increased sales activity levels and the re-emergence of investors suggested an improvement in confidence in the property market. However he warned that the lack of supply, especially in Dublin, remained a key issue.

"We urgently need more homes to be built and the Society recently called for a number of measures to increase the supply of new homes ," he said.

Among these is a Builder's Finance Fund, a two year reduction in VAT on new homes to 5pc and a reduction in development contributions.

"These measures would go some way to alleviating the supply restrictions in the market and the worrying pace of property price increases," added Mr Stokes

However the situation in the west and midwest is very different with 60pc and 80pc believing that supply is greater than demand and that this is an issue which also needs redress.

And Keith Lowe, CEO of Douglas Newman Good added: "While we believe that the SCSI survey is certainly a good snapshot of what's happening countrywide, we're finding that cash buyers in the capital are still accounting for between 40pc and 50pc of purchases."

Irish Independent

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