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Hope for homeowners

New figures from the CSO, which show that house prices have risen for two consecutive months, are a welcome chink of light for the beleaguered housing market.

The latest figures seem to confirm earlier data showing that, after falling continuously for more than five years, house prices may finally have bottomed out.

However, before a formal end is declared to the house price crash, a word or three of caution is in order. Firstly, the figures published yesterday were for August, traditionally the quietest month of the year for the housing market. Secondly, while prices rose in the rest of the country they have begun to fall once again in Dublin, by far the most liquid local housing market in the country. Thirdly, the CSO figures only measure homes bought with a mortgage and thus exclude cash sales, now estimated to account for over a third of all transactions.

This combination of factors means that it would be premature to expect any rapid rebound in house prices.

Still, rents, which also fell sharply in recent years, are now rising once again. This means that for anyone who can persuade their bank to give them a mortgage, the cost gap between renting a property and the mortgage repayments if they were to buy that same property has virtually disappeared. In some cases it is now more expensive to rent rather than to buy.

After more than five years of bad news we are finally beginning to get some good news. The road to recovery will be a difficult one, with a few disappointments along the way, but at long last homeowners can begin to hope once again.