Dear Barry

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Last quarter you’ll remember we reported on a drop in house sales, but urged readers not to panic.

A drop in sales doesn’t mean the bottom is falling out of the market, and in fact can correspond with a healthy rise in prices. Or not.

All the more reason for investors to keep an ear to the ground, an eye on your friendly local property blog, and your favourite sales and letting agent on speed dial.

The most recent NISRA NI House Price Index reports a total of 4,379 property sales in Northern Ireland during the first quarter of 2017 – that’s a 25% drop on the final sales figure (5,834) for the last quarter of 2016.

As always, we must remember this figure is usually revised upwards once all confirmed sales have been received, and indeed 131 confirmed sales have boosted Q4’s final count.

As they stand, the figures show Belfast slightly outperforming the Northern Ireland average – showing a drop, yes, but sales are down 22% between Q4 2016 and Q1 2017. Not much, but we’ll take it.

The overall picture for the Belfast market is good. There has been a healthy upward trend from 2008 - when just 2,277 properties changed hands - up to 2016’s total of 4,525 sales. 

And we’re advised that could rise, as new build sales have yet to be added to the totals of the two most recent quarters.

So, that bigger picture is the one you need to keep your eye on. Falling sales are to be expected during the first quarter of the year, and given the macro-economic and global socio-economic climate over the past six to 12 months, things should be considered fairly healthy.

Take into account, too, the hotel-building boom we reported on recently. Belfast property is about to get a lot more valuable, so it’s not surprising investors and homeowners alike are hanging on to their houses and flats.

An explosion in jobs, culture and nightlife mean Belfast will be the place to be for the next few years – that’s an extremely attractive prospect for residents, landlords and capital investors alike.

Artist's impression of the new Grand Central Hotel on Bedford Street