Housing market ‘has bottomed out’

THE housing market is showing signs it has bottomed out with figures indicating house prices have plunged by a third from their peak.

A survey of mortgage brokers by KBC Ireland found that their view on the 36% house price drop is similar to their response in the last survey.

KBC economist Austin Hughes said this hints that there has been some bottoming out in prices in recent months.

“It would be dangerous to draw definitive conclusions in this regard in the light of the generally soft tone of activity reported in this survey. However, it can be argued that the survey at least suggests the pace of price decline has eased notably compared to the large adjustments seen earlier in the year. This would be the sort of development that might be expected as a bottoming out process begins,” he said.

The survey also found that, although brokers have been reporting weaker conditions in the past three months, the tone of responses from those in Dublin was stronger than elsewhere with roughly twice as many Dublin-based brokers reporting an improvement as elsewhere in the country.

Brokers said they believe that constraints on the availability of credit was the most significant influence on the weakness of the market in the past three months, with just under half saying this was the most important factor.

Overall the survey said the mortgage market will remain “difficult” through the first quarter of 2010 as tighter lending standards and unemployment concerns curb borrowing.

About one-third of the 160 mortgage brokers surveyed see conditions remaining “weak,” while a further 25% expect “sluggish” activity. About one third see a “tentative improvement” emerging.

Meanwhile, mortgage holders on variable rates have been advised to consider fixing for five or more years. The Professional Insurance Brokers Association (PIBA) said lenders are likely to hike rates next year independent of the European Central Bank (ECB).

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