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The Belfast Property Market

We are in un-chartered economic waters right now, with the international market in a state of flux and the UK and the rest of Europe trying to come to terms with what the Brexit vote is going to mean for ordinary people.

The pound has plummeted against the dollar and the euro, making imports more expensive. Meanwhile the UK’s base interest rate remains marooned at an unprecedented 0.25%. Oil prices are soaring again.

Interest rates may change, the pound may increase – or continue to decrease – in value, greater inflation is probable, a return to recession is possible. In truth, with so many experts interpreting the same facts totally differently and contradicting one another’s forecasts every day, Joe Public does not know what or whom to believe. But come what may, people are going to need a roof over their heads.

So what is happening in the Northern Ireland property market now?
With offices in south Belfast and Templepatrick, Aria have a finger on the pulse, both in the city and 10 miles out into the country. And despite all the post-Brexit uncertainty, they are seeing clear evidence of a market which is strengthening steadily, in a responsible manner and at a sustainable rate. Hopefully the madness of 2005-07 when property prices went crazy has taught everyone a salutary lesson.

Northern Ireland people tend to be conservative by nature, inclined to weigh things up rather than stampeding into risky ventures. That being the case, most will welcome the news that the idea of buying a home simply to make quick money from selling it on again a relatively short time later appears to have had its day. For now at any rate. From working with ordinary people merely trying to sell or buy ‘a home’ – in the true sense of the word – Aria have seen a real change in attitudes. Instead of purchasing in the hope of making money from a quick re-sale, buyers’ decisions are back to being based on how and where they plan to live for some time to come.

So at the moment there is considerable interest in available property and the price it is fetching. Supply is an issue at certain levels, with demand outstripping availability. And that, in turn, is nudging prices upwards – but not in the way we saw in the mid-2000s. Right now you can sell and buy at a good market-based price. While there is an element of ‘wait and see’, particularly at the top end of the price bracket, interest in mid-range properties is encouragingly strong. This, of course, is destined to translate into sales and when it does, the money that produces will begin to filter through elsewhere on the property ladder.

In addition, there is more and more evidence of new-build homes. Those are attracting a lot of first-time buyers – young couples and young single professionals – into the market.
Many of those intent on buying are drawn increasingly to more and more advanced ‘turn-key packages’ whereby the purchaser gets to put their identity on the property from the outset by choosing their own fittings, kitchens and bathrooms, for example.

Meanwhile three-bedroom semis and smaller detached houses are sparking interest, too, particularly from growing families. Aria have discovered that with lenders now much more cautious than was the case a decade ago, in turn would-be borrowers have responded by being prepared to make sacrifices in order to put down the biggest possible deposit.  In the hope of minimising their outgoings, thus leaving a lot more of their disposable income intact, many are continuing to live with their parents.

There are some excellent mortgage products out there and obviously the more a borrower is able to put down, the better the deals and more favourable the rates they will be offered. With huge development sites having been bought in Comber and Newtownards, clearly there are fresh projects on the way, reflecting confidence in the state of the property market.  One reason for this optimism in the fact that the figures are making sense again. Something that, at the height of the boom soared to £200,000 can now be bought for £70,000. An attractive residence, realistically priced and therefore affordable equals genuine interest on the part of buyers.

The approach on the part of buyers and sellers alike is altogether more pragmatic. Growth is sensibly paced. We’re told that the price of houses may rise by up to 7.8% this year!

But the biggest single change is that we are back to a situation where people see their home as being just that – their home, not bricks and mortar out of which to make a vast profit very quickly,
Aria are leading the way in this, by keeping their eyes, and those of their clients, focused on reality – real homes for real people at realistic prices.

Can You Sell My House In Belfast?

Selling a property in Belfast

HERE in Northern Ireland there are some things that so deeply embedded in our make-up that now they are taken as being DNA-transmitted. One such example is our fixation with home ownership.

While our counterparts in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and much of Scandinavia may be happy to rent, to those in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, ownership remains all-important.

For years it was said that ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’.

And over the years we have bought into the notion that it also applies on this side of the Irish Sea. Now we too aspire to home ownership. There aren’t too many examples of rented castles…

The numbers of houses for sale in Belfast, and the interest in them, mirror that reality. And although the crash of 2008, the recession which followed and the impact that had on house prices here momentarily derailed the ownership locomotive, little by little it has been getting back on track.

South Belfast in particular is on the up and up with properties in the Stranmillis, Malone and Lisburn Road areas much in demand. Things are buoyant in the east of the city, too, with Ballyhackamore now regarded as being a prime location.

When it comes to house-hunting, of course, much has changed in the past two decades. In terms of house-selling, gone are the days of reliance on an ad in the Tele and a For Sale board in the garden or else nailed to the wall above the front door.

We’re a much more sophisticated, technologically literate lot these days, with social media and on-line searches now our weapons of choice when we set about trying to sell – or buy – a property.

If they are to survive in what is a much-changed, highly competitive marketplace, Belfast estate agents really do have to be up to speed in order to meet the demands and expectations of today’s laptop, smart phone and tablet conversant house sellers and buyers.

Certainly Aria have risen to this challenge by appointing knowledgeable staff who are completely at home in that environment. In addition they have quipped themselves with the latest hi-tech gadgetry and offering 24-hour on-line access. Even their office opening hours eclipse those of rivals still stuck in the 9-5 era.
And they offer a number of additional services, all designed to make the whole house-selling process easy, straightforward, stress-free and successful. Call it a case of positive results via simplicity.

As per Aria’s approach to rental accommodation, attention to detail is everything when it comes to residential property sales. In other words, they insist on every box being ticked, with nothing being left to chance.

“Do that and you will sell the property,” is the mantra.

There is no doubt that trying to sell property can be worrying for those intent on matching their home with the right buyer. That being the case, working hand in hand with an estate agent who minimises the hassle whilst maximising the seller’s return makes sense.

To that end, openness, transparency and honesty are Aria watchwords.

They tell it like it is; their valuation of a property is based on how others of comparable standard in the same locality have sold. They provide evidence of how the prices those homes have fetched, for which reason the seller knows the asking price being recommended is realistic valuation and fair.

No exaggeration, no hopelessly unrealistic assessments, no promises which cannot – and therefore will not – be kept.

Free valuation is part of the service, incidentally.

With more and more people going on-line to find property for sale in Belfast, Aria have invested accordingly. Up-to-date technology, around-the-clock access, national and international marketing and support at every stage of the process are all part of the deal.

Aria offer honest feed-back as to possible modifications and improvements the would-be seller could make in order to boost the prospects of a sale. Again, it’s a case of tell-it-straight honesty rather than tip-toeing around the subject out of fear of causing offence or upsetting the vendor. If that bright red room with the black skirting board is a handicap, Aria will tell you!

In brief, they level with their clients, telling it like it is based on their knowledge of what modern-day buyers want and expect. That way, the desired result is achieved a lot more often – and a lot more quickly.

Because there is no shortage of houses for sale in Belfast, getting the selling process right is key.

The importance of first impressions cannot be over-emphasised, nor can the value-for-money return on an investment in a shampooed – or better still, new – carpet, a freshly decorated entrance hallway, the tidy-up of a garden or the removal of clutter that has been sitting in the back garden for months, or even years, and is never going to be a plus in the eyes of a potential buyer when it comes to selling points.
A for-sale house has to look attractive and here, too, Aria offer advice based on experience.

Having invested heavily in on-line know-how, high quality cameras and some of the latest technology, they are able to show any on-sale property in its best possible light – literally.

This means that if they have taken photographs which do not meet their standards of excellence, they will then take more to ensure that those who see them cannot fail to be impressed. Rest assured, therefore, that photographs which are too dull or show just half a bedroom because the camera used was not good enough to capture it in its entirety will not feature on any Aria site. They set the bar very high for themselves – and their results confirm that such attention to detail yields results.
They know that buying a house almost certainly is the biggest purchase most of us will ever make. For that reason Aria believe that anyone who uses them to enable that is deserving of the very highest level and standard of support.

In furtherance of their aim to be market leaders in Belfast estate agency, Aria also offer help – in purely practical ways – to those on whose behalf they are trying to sell.

If, for example, their analysis of a property for sale in Belfast is that the likelihood would be enhanced as a result of some minor work which will cost comparatively little in monetary terms, but would be very helpful in yielding an overall result, not only will they advise it – they will also arrange to have it done by a team of tradesmen they have at their disposal.

Belfast is awash with homes for sale and estate agents hoping to cater for vendors and buyers alike. Because selling property can be difficult, using those who offer that little bit more when it comes to detail and expertise makes good sense.
No up-front fees coupled with a modern, fully professional, 365-days-a-year marketing strategy and the ready availability of tradesmen capable of making quick, inexpensive, price-enhancing improvements to your property make Aria particularly attractive estate agents.

Lift the phone and let them maximise your asset, your price and your prospects by virtue of the second-to-none service they provide.

Selling A House In Belfast

At a time when the housing market is improving, albeit that the improvement is more discernible in some parts of Northern Ireland than others, Belfast is an example of the former. In the south and east of the capital city in particular, prices are increasing steadily if not spectacularly. And that’s good, given that we are still living with the after-effects of a dramatic but unsustainable upsurge which saw the market go mad a decade ago. The lesson? You can only blow a bubble up so far before it bursts. In the wake of what happened post-2008, the market of 2016 is altogether more cautious and cagey, not least because lenders are no longer falling over themselves to throw money at us. They, like the rest of us, learned some very hard lessons.

With those wounds still fresh – indeed, in many cases, red-raw – prudence and care have replaced the ill-advised and irresponsible attitude which prevailed between 2005 and 2007 before ultimately proving ruinous. Those selling and buying today are a whole lot more circumspect and discriminating. Instead of waffle, inflated claims and inflated prices, today’s vendors are demanding integrity, reality and genuine prices. In particular, they are making it plain that estate agents have to measure up. So today in Belfast any sensible would-be seller is going to ask three pertinent but completely fair and reasonable questions. Those are:

(1) all in, how much will it cost me to sell my house?

(2) How much of that goes to you, Mr Estate Agent?

(3) What do I get from you in return for that fee?

Estate agents are like footballers; a few at the top end are outstanding, a great many others are just average and, as at the bottom end, some are plain awful.  They take clients for granted – often they take potential buyers for granted, too – and their old-fashioned methods are out of touch with the pace of the modern world. In short, their work as estates agents is sub-standard and sloppy. They over-charge and under-invest –at the expense of the seller in either case. Their failure to stay in touch with, and be part of, what is relevant in today’s property market is hugely disadvantageous to their clients’ prospects of selling quickly and/or for the best possible price. They open at times which suit themselves rather than those whose interests they are supposedly representing, while ensuring that it’s their client rather than they themselves who pick up the tab every step of the way.

Property in Belfast is plentiful. That being the case, there is no shortage of people keen to cash in at this stage. It’s time for the perceptive client to engage in some market research as to who offers most and does the job best. Who provides the best service, pays most attention to detail, is transparently cost-efficient – not least because they invest their own money rather than that of their client at the outset – and is motivated by the fact that unless they sell they don’t get paid?

Aria tick each of those boxes and a few more besides, blazing a trail as pace-setters in a highly competitive environment, witness the recent opening of a branch in Templepatrick to supplement their established head office on Belfast’s Lisburn Road.

They have staff who know the market and are totally comfortable with the latest hi-tech gadgetry. They have invested a lot of money in the latest on-line technology and high quality cameras, which means they can show any for-sale property in its best possible light to the widest possible audience.They are not restricted by geography to where they are based physically, nor are they confined to 9-5 office hours. If you want to visit, you can do so at any hour of the day or night, 365 days a year. How? Via technology which gives the potential buyer night and day access to the world of ‘virtual viewing’.  That goes hand in hand with the real thing, of course, so it isn’t instead of face to face contact and communication with an Aria estate agent. It’s simply an option, an alternative, an extra for those who are unable to call during conventional office hours. Or who don’t even live in Northern Ireland at this stage, but are keen to buy a property here.

Social media is the name of the game now and that is a reality Aria have embraced. There was a time when ‘advertising’ property for sale consisted of nothing more than a description of the dimensions and a picture in the estate agent’s window or on a board, plus an ad in the newspaper. No longer. The simple fact is that increasing numbers of people shop on-line nowadays – for groceries, books, music, clothes, furniture et al, as well as to make bookings, buy tickets or whatever else. Property is no different; increasingly those searching for property in Belfast do so on-line. Aria’s investment in equipment to facilitate this is nothing more than an acknowledgement that it’s how things are these days. Adapt or get left behind.

Conscious of that, Aria are on Propertypal, reaching the masses with details of that house, flat or apartment you’re trying to sell. This means they are able to advertise and promote properties nationally and internationally as well as closer to home. The charge for this? Well, there isn’t one – it’s all part of the service. Aria have invested in high specification cameras, too, which means that any photographs they display are of the highest standard. In other words, your for-sale property is going to be seen at its best.
All pictures of houses valued at £200,000 or more are taken by professional cameramen – free of charge. The Aria mantra is “Do everything properly, leave nothing to chance and you will sell the property.”

They minimise the work required of you by undertaking it themselves. Their valuations are based on knowledge of how other properties of comparable standard in the same locality have sold. Thus the vendor knows that the asking price is a true and fair valuation.
Aria do not fill clients’ heads with nonsense by asking for an unrealistic and therefore unattainable price. Nor do they make promises they cannot be kept. If they say it’s worth £180,000, that’s because it’s worth £180,000. So expect £180,000.

Their valuation fee? It’s free; that’s part of the service, too. Their insistence on honesty also includes them offering advice on improvements the would-be seller should make in order to boost the prospects of a sale. Again there is no flannel; if Aria believe a grubby carpet needs changing or a bedroom requires a coat of paint, they will tell you! Why? Because they know what they’re talking about and they know what works. All of the advice they offer is based on their knowledge and experience of what the modern-day buyer wants and expects. Meet those expectations  and the desired result will be achieved a lot more frequently and quickly. Estate agents will charge a percentage of the sale price; that is their modus operandi. But some charge a lot more besides, with the meter starting to run from the moment you enlist with them.

With their starting point being the fact that they make no up-front charges, Aria make it plain from the outset that they are in the business of selling. If they fail to do that, they don’t charge you a penny. Clearly they are in to win.

Buying A House In Belfast

Buying a house is probably the most expensive venture you will ever undertake. It costs a lot more than the average car, holiday or any other big ‘life’ event, weddings included. As well as being expensive, buying a home is a long-term commitment. How long? In the past it tended to be a 25-year project at the end of which, finally, you have outright ownership of the property. But now, increasingly, the term over which mortgage repayments are stretched out extends beyond that quarter-of-a-century norm.

We haven’t gone quite as far as the Japanese, of course. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, such was the price of property in Japan that ordinary working people could not possibly afford to buy. To offset that, Japanese lenders began offering mortgages to run over a term of many years – up to 100 years in some cases. Under such an agreement, the property – and the outstanding mortgage – pass to the children when the parents die.
Closer to home, longer-term mortgages are common in Switzerland, too, in view of the highly prohibitive price of property there. While things in the UK and Ireland have not reached that stage, the mention of a 30-year mortgage no longer makes us blink. Because buying a home is both an expensive and a long-term commitment, it would be foolish in the extreme to rush into such a transaction without having gone through all of the necessary steps and examined the possible options in detail.

In addition, because it is where you plan to live for the foreseeable future, you need to be sure that this is the right home in the right locality, not only for you but for everybody else involved in or affected by the move.
Is it conveniently situated with regard to all the people and all the facilities/amenities of importance to you? Friends? Relatives? Work? Schools? Shops? Clubs or groups to which you belong? The right home in the wrong place is an oxymoron; such a home, however desirable, is not ‘the right one’ so do yourself a favour and look elsewhere. At the outset of buying a home, itemise the most important steps of the process. Decide on your price bracket and make sure you stay within it. Regardless of how attractive that addition feature may be, DO NOT allow yourself to be talked into spending more than the amount for which you have budgeted. Discuss the availability of a mortgage with a lender or lenders before you start your search. There is no point in having your ‘dream home’ offer accepted by the vendor only then to find out that you don’t have a mortgage with which to buy it. Crucially, examine all of your options before deciding what type of mortgage best suits your needs and your pocket. More than anything, your decision as to the best mortgage for you will be taken on the grounds of affordability. Ultimately it comes down to your ability to repay.

Basically you have three options – repayment, interest-only or a combination of both of those. The words to note are CAPITAL and INTEREST. Capital is the amount you have borrowed. Interest is the amount you are required to pay for borrowing that capital. A repayment mortgage is one where you, the borrower, repay your bank or building society, the lender, BOTH the capital and the interest on it. As a result, your mortgage balance decreases each month until, at the end of the term (usually 25 years), it is all fully repaid. Note, however, that in the early years of that term most of the money you repay will be interest rather than capital. This means that should you wish either to pay off the mortgage or move house, the amount you owe at that stage will not have gone down by very much.

Interest-only mortgages are cheaper due to the fact that your monthly repayments do not include any of the capital you borrowed at the outset. The downside to this is that when you reach the end of the term, you will still owe all of the capital.
That being the case you must have a repayment strategy so that you are able to pay off the capital at the end of the mortgage. This could mean paying regularly into savings, investments, pensions and/or other properties. It is YOUR responsibility to have a plan which enables you to clear the capital at the end of the mortgage, though your lender must also review the situation at least once during the term. Note also that some lenders ask for a larger deposit on an interest-only mortgage.
Both repayment and interest-only mortgages can be paid at fixed interest or variable rates. While fixed interest mortgages are more expensive than their ‘variable’ counterparts, the big plus is that you are not going to be affected by a rise or rises in the base rate.

The third option is a mortgage on a part-repayment and part-interest-only basis which means that at the end of the term some of the mortgage capital will still have to be repaid. Before embarking on any house-buying employ a good solicitor – ideally one with a proven track record in conveyancing. Ignore stories about that teacher or that car salesman who handled the whole process themselves. If only it were that simple…‘Tried and tested’ makes a lot more sense, particularly if any unforeseen difficulties were to arise. In that event, your solicitor could just end up sparing you a lot of anxiety and saving you a lot of money.

If you would like more info on the process of buying a home or you want to speak to estate agents in the know, contact Aria now: 028 9059 9599 (Lisburn Rd office) or 028 9443 3388 (Templepatrick office)