House prices fall another 15pc -- but have they hit the bottom?
HOUSE prices fell by as much as 15pc last year and are now down almost 40pc from their peak, two new property reports show.
Dublin city, Meath and Killkenny were the worst hit in the last year.
Asking prices are now down 40pc from their peak, according to a review of the market by Daft.ie. This has wiped €145,000 off the average price of a home nationwide.
But prices in urban areas like Dublin and Cork could be near the bottom, prompting some hopes that the worst could be over for these built-up locations.
Last year alone house prices nationally dropped by 15pc, with the asking price for an average property now down to €220,000.
This compares with €365,000 at the height of the property bubble in the middle of 2007, Daft economist Ronan Lyons said.
But Daft rival MyHome.ie, which is heavily weighted in favour of the Dublin market, said it recorded an average fall of almost 35pc to €271,000 in asking prices nationally. In the capital prices have plunged to an average of €314,000.
Both property reports warned that the market had yet to bottom out as consumer sentiment remained fragile with income tax hikes set to hit hard this year.
Mr Lyons said Dublin city centre had seen price falls of up to 50pc since 2007, while some counties had seen just a 30pc drop.
Mayo and Limerick saw asking prices fall by just 9pc each last year. At the other end of the scale, there was a fall of 22pc in Kilkenny; 20pc in Meath; 17pc in Kerry; 18pc in Donegal and 20pc in Dublin city, with the same percentage fall in Wexford.
Asking prices are not the final sales prices, but give an up-to-date indication of the state of the property market.
There are some 60,000 properties for sale across the country, a figure that has not changed much since 2008, Daft estimates.
A fall in the number of homes for sale will indicate that the property market has begun to stabilise.
Mr Lyons said a range of factors continued to weigh on prospective buyers, including tougher lending criteria and expectations of higher taxes and interest rates in coming years.
But he said the capital was likely to recover before other areas. He added that the property market was showing signs of moving at different paces across different parts of the country.
"It is the cities -- and in particular Dublin -- that are most likely to stabilise first, and it remains to be seen if this happens in 2011," Mr Lyons said.
MyHome.ie said prices fell 13pc nationally last year, and by 15.2pc in Dublin.
Annette Hughes, from DKM Economic Consultants, who compiled the MyHome report, said it was clear that consumer sentiment was fragile as accessing credit remained difficult for potential house buyers.
"Although prices are back to 2002 levels it is clear we have not yet reached the bottom of the market," said Ms Hughes.
"Other issues which will continue to adversely impact the market include the amount of unsold and vacant housing stock and the precarious financial position of some households following the December Budget combined with the need to repay debt."
However, Ms Hughes said that with affordability now back to mid-1990 levels, some people who were priced out of the market during the boom years may be enticed back into the market during 2011.
"There is undoubtedly an overhang of potential buyers waiting to enter the market when conditions improve and confidence is restored," she added.
"The arguments supporting house purchases as a long-term investment decision may once again win out, particularly in good locations," she added.