Confused about current house prices

August 2013

Question

We are first-time buyers seeking to buy a home. However, we are confused because of the various reports we have read about house prices. Could you give us your opinion on what is happening in the market?

Answer

A number of reports on the property market published recently point to a stabilisation in property prices in certain areas. The latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) House Price Index reports that property prices nationally rose 2.3 per cent in the year to July. It also states that prices in Dublin grew by 3.3 per cent in July and are 8 per cent higher than a year ago and that apartments in Dublin were 11.6 per cent higher in July of this year compared to July 2012.

Further to this report, the ESRI has suggested house prices will rise by an average of up to 7 per cent nationally and up to 10 per cent in Dublin this year. All of these figures suggest an improvement in the property market, but the improvement is largely region-dependent and there are a number of factors to consider.

Firstly, supply of property of a certain type and in certain areas is limited and this is having an effect on prices.

Secondly, the stabilisation and modest increases in prices are largely location-dependent. Homes in well-established suburbs with access to schools, employment, transport and other amenities are attracting buyers. The case is not the same for different types of property in less established areas.

Thirdly, while the number of mortgage draw down’s and approvals has increased, the increase in the overall number of mortgage accounts in arrears for principal dwelling houses (PDHs), remains a concern. It is also important to remember that some of the statistics don’t count cash buyers, who make up a large proportion of the market.

While the CSO information is the most comprehensive property-price data available to both buyers and sellers, it does not give a definitive picture of the market at any one time. This is because the index excludes cash purchasers who make up a substantial proportion of the market. In addition, the mortgage draw downs on which the index is based, tend to lag the market by approximately three months.

My advice is to do your research and make your decision based on whether a home is right for your personal circumstances and needs rather than depending on what happens in the property market. While a possible stabilisation and improvement in the market is welcome, it is perhaps too early to tell where it will end up.

Gerard O’Toole is chairman of the western region of the MediKids.