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  1. Some context http://pwc.blogs.com/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-economic-outlook Northern Ireland is projected to be the poorest performing of the 12 UK regions in 2016.....................
  2. Northern Ireland 'still feeling the effects of recession'Bit of self promotion (again) but of interest nonetheless. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/northern-ireland-still-feeling-the-effects-of-recession-34421804.html That's according to Conor Devine of GDP Partnership, who has said Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is set for "another five years" of people struggling with small business debts, and problems such as negativity equity on property. There have been two phases to all of this," Mr Devine said. "First, there was the property and banking crash. That was phase one. But now we are in phase two. The US private equity firms have bought up billions in residential loans, and I see that as a five-year process."Cerberus has billions of loans, and owns lots of real estate across the board. "Now, how is the borrower going to deal with the private equity firms? We have had a debt advisory business for five years. I thought work would be dying down, but it's been very busy in the last four weeks. "What has happened is the bigger, chunkier debts have been solved, but in the last 12 months it's the more granular - people with buy-to-let properties, or a couple of houses here and there."
  3. Northern Ireland is once again the only region in the UK which is seeing new car sales fall, the latest figures have shown. Ramsay loves using car sales as an economic barometer when rising. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/northern-ireland-top-10-car-sales-for-january-2016-ford-vw-and-vauxhall-among-top-sellers-34425518.html "Northern Ireland has started in reverse after last year, which was pretty much flat. One thing which could be an issue is motability."Almost one in four new car sales is part of the motability scheme, which is two-and-a-half times the UK average. "The issue is in the rest of the UK, sales are continuing to rise. There's a mismatch, when the cost of living is falling and there are no interest rates rises on the horizon. "It may be the case that people are being more reticent about big ticket item purchases, while retail and hospitality are more buoyant." Nearly 14,000 disabled people have mobility cars taken away (UK) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35476904 Nearly 14,000 disabled people who rely on a specialist motoring allowance have had their cars taken away from them following government welfare changes. Figures seen by the BBC show almost half of those having to be reassessed for this support under the changes lost their Motability vehicle.
  4. NIHE insight briefing - some BTL info and projected demand (revised) figures re social housing need http://www.nihe.gov.uk/insight_briefing_january_2016.pdf Meeting housing need–the risk of landlord disinvestment The private rented sector plays a critical role in meeting the housing need of a wide range of households. With increasing signs of stability and tentative growth in the overall housing market, there is a question about whether ‘accidental’ or ‘reluctant’ landlords might now take the opportunity to sell properties that they had rented pending an upturn in the market. It was felt that large-scale disinvestment in the sector was unlikely, and there was some anecdotal evidence that when properties that have been privately rented are sold, in many instances they are bought by other landlords and remain in the sector. In addition, having gained experience in the sector, some of those who were initially ‘accidental’ landlords are now content to maintain their investment in the longer -term. This might change if interest rates rise significantly, but that appears unlikely in the foreseeable future.
  5. Out of control: Housing Executive slammed as scathing audit reveals 'fundamental' conflict of interests in land deals http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/out-of-control-housing-executive-slammed-as-scathing-audit-reveals-fundamental-conflict-of-interests-in-land-deals-34342724.html There was further controversy with the disposal of NIHE land at Hardcastle Street in Belfast. In March 2005 it was sold "off-market" to a developer for £98,000. The land was not advertised and a private developer complained he was not given the opportunity to bid for it. The complaint was upheld and the developer was offered £20,000 compensation. He rejected the offer and sued NIHE for £75,200. NIHE also paid the buyer's planning fees, which reduced the developers' costs and the amount received by the public sector. The Audit Office report stated: "The Public Accounts Committee concluded in 2013 that 'the Housing Executive's Housing and Regeneration Division had been, for many years, out of control.' "Our examination of the Housing and Regeneration Division's management of land transactions from 2004 up to 2010 clearly supports the Committee's conclusion." Mr McCaughley was suspended on September 30, 2010 having been on sick leave since March 23, 2010. The Housing Executive is Northern Ireland's biggest landlord, with over 82,000 homes. It also has one of the largest land portfolios. Some is used to build social homes while other parts go on the open market. From 2004 to 2010 the local property market was described as "extremely buoyant" with many private developers trying to acquire land from the Housing Executive (NIHE). Since 2005 there have been 1,374 land disposals, including 161 to registered housing associations for new-build schemes. In 2005 the value of NIHE land with development potential was estimated at £409m. Since the property crash this has plummeted to just £31m.
  6. Shocking of Northern Ireland debt time bomb laid barehttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/revealed-shocking-of-northern-ireland-debt-time-bomb-laid-bare-34345064.html Almost 250,000 people in Northern Ireland are facing a debt time bomb - but are doing little or nothing about it. Citizens Advice is particularly concerned about a generation of buyers who have never experienced an interest rate rise and whose monthly mortgage repayments could increase significantly if that happened. "First-time home-buyers would struggle to find an extra few hundred pounds a month when rates eventually start to rise," Ms McKenna said. "A recent report commissioned by the Department of Social Development showed that the repossession rate in Northern Ireland in 2015 was four times higher than in Britain, and it is predicting that the number of households at risk of repossession will rise from 15,000 last year to 32,000 by 2018." Borrowing jumped ahead of Christmas, Bank of England says - (UK)http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-35222090 The amount of money being borrowed by consumers in the run-up to Christmas rose by £1.5bn, the largest rise for nearly eight years. In November, consumers owed a total of £178.2bn on credit cards and loans, figures from the Bank of England show. The monthly increase was the largest since February 2008 and compares with a rise of £1.2bn in October. It also comes at a time when consumers are saving less. In the last quarter of 2015, the ONS said households saved 4.4% of their income, the equal lowest ratio for 50 years. George Osborne warns mortgage holders: Be prepared for interest rates rise this yearhttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/george-osborne-warns-mortgage-holders-be-prepared-for-interest-rates-rise-this-year-34344280.html
  7. Northern Ireland dole queues down, but more jobs expected to be lost in manufacturinghttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/northern-ireland-dole-queues-down-but-more-jobs-expected-to-be-lost-in-manufacturing-34293927.html Mr Ramsey added that since the economic downturn, the Northern Ireland economy lost 41,500 jobs but had only managed to recoup just over 38,000 of them. "Since the middle of this year, there are 1% more private sector jobs now than there were just prior to the downturn in the last quarter of 2008, but the problem is that there are 5.5% less public sector jobs, and more to go." PwC chief economist, Dr Esmond Birnie, warned that encouraging though the figures might be, there were no grounds for any euphoria. "Yesterday's figures indicate that the speed of growth, especially with respect to jobs' growth, is slowing down - another worrying sign that the already modest regional recovery is losing momentum," he added.
  8. Why do people resent buy-to-letters so much?http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35110421 "Landlords are greedy. They greedily ratchet up the rent at every opportunity and therefore get the consequences," says Robert Stevens. It's his simple answer to the question of why buy-to-let landlords - of whom there are now estimated to be as many as two million in the UK - have, over the past few years, started to become as unpopular as wheel-clamping services or cold-calling PPI refund firms. But Stevens isn't some aggrieved tenant, housing campaigner or left-wing academic. He's a buy-to-let landlord with eight properties who is exasperated at the behaviour of many of his fellow businesspeople. Newspaper columnists, activists and politicians regularly brand them as unhelpfully leeching off those who are unable to get a foot on the housing ladder. According to Stevens, the landlords' poor business decisions are partly to blame for the crushed dreams of their tenants: "In the old days, you used to rent a property while you built up capital to put down as a deposit on a property you buy. But landlords are mortgaged up to the hilt now so they have to charge very high rents, and that means tenants can't save for a deposit." So, in Stevens's view, those greedy landlords over-stretching themselves in the past few years have actually resulted in their tenants being trapped in the rented sector. Alison Wallace, an academic at York University, has researched the buy-to-let sector. She says some of the public animosity is a result of the financial sector stacking the odds in the favour of landlords, and that makes the property market dysfunctional for everyone. "Interest-only mortgages are offered to buy-to-let landlords but not first-time buyers, so landlords have lower payments and that means they can outbid the first-time buyers. And that makes the whole market more frothy," she says. But behind the economics, there is probably something more basic - our need for a home. And when someone appears to be exploiting that need, it causes widespread anger. As Dan Wilson Craw, from campaign group Generation Rent, which speaks for young tenants, says: "Most people just want a place to live, whereas buy-to-let landlords want a place to make money." Landlords are fundamentally abusing what housing is, he claims. Kinsey agrees. "A home is really vital to your mental health and there are times when I've nearly gone under with the pressure and instability of it all," she says. "The law puts all the power in the hands of landlords. It's just wrong. It's immoral."
  9. The Northern Ireland Housing Bulletin April – June 2015 http://www.northernireland.gov.uk/news-dsd-271015-the-northern-ireland The total number of new dwelling starts in Northern Ireland recorded by Building Control for April – June 2015 was 1,828, 10% more than the same quarter in 2014. The total number of new dwelling completions recorded by Building Control for April – June 2015 was 1,295, 11% less than the same quarter in 2014. During the quarter ending March 2015, 221 (revised figures) new National House Building Council (NHBC) registered dwellings were sold, a decrease of 17% on the same period in 2014. The average price of NHBC-registered new dwellings for the quarter ending March 2015 was £167,700 which is an increase of 12% on the previous quarter (£149,900).
  10. Ulster Bank makes profit of £114m in third quarter of 2015 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34675343 The bank, which operates across Ireland, said it had seen a 48% increase in mortgage lending so far this year. Danske customers borrow highest loan to value mortgages http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/danske-customers-borrow-highest-loan-to-value-mortgages-34153938.html Mortgage customers of the bank here are typically borrowing 69.9% of their home value, and making up the rest with a deposit, according to the parent bank's interim report for the first nine months of this year. That leaves Northern Ireland customers of the bank with the highest loan to value ratio of Danske's markets - the lowest is in Finland, where borrowers were putting up 40% deposits. Meanwhile, Danske Bank in Northern Ireland - in its results for the nine months to September this year - said recovery in the property market and economy continues as it posted improved results, with a 64% jump in pre-tax profits to £107.3m. It had approved £185m in new mortgage lending to first time buyers, switchers and home movers in the year so far. And income was £164.3m, up 5.6% from £155.6m. Kevin Kingston, deputy chief executive of the bank, said the bank had effectively "shaken off the challenges of the recession" and was "optimistic and positive" about 2016. And he said contrast between mortgage lending for Danske Bank in its markets was down to "cultural norms" with more people in European countries spending longer renting than their counterparts in Northern Ireland.
  11. Cork developer John Barry declared a bankrupt in UK At peak, Castlelands Construction was building up to 700 houses a year and employed up to 500http://www.irishtimes.com/business/construction/cork-developer-john-barry-declared-a-bankrupt-in-uk-1.2410434 One of the biggest housebuilders in the Munster area during the boom years, has been declared a bankrupt in the UK. His former home, Parklands, Crossfield, Mallow, built in 2003 on more than 30 acres, is currently up for sale. The 1,000sq m six-bedroom house has a 127sq m garage and includes a tennis court and an indoor swimming pool. It has a guide price of €895,000. Afforested land adjoining the house is separately up for sale. Among the mortgages registered against the company is one from 2005, from Lombard Ireland, in relation to an Augusta helicopter. Mr Barry bought substantial amounts of land in Co Cork at the height of the property boom. In 2004, 180 acres at St Joseph’s Road, Mallow, were bought for a reported price of €40 million. The land was subsequently sold back to the farmers who sold it to Mr Barry, by Nama, for €2.25 million. Other substantial land holdings, at Douglas and Ballinrea, Cork, were sold by Nama for per acre prices that were fractions of the amounts paid a few years earlier by Mr Barry, who had plans for very substantial developments on the lands.
  12. Belfast Briefing: politics and financing dampen house prices New property bubble not forecast as ‘buying public are much more educated’http://www.irishtimes.com/business/construction/belfast-briefing-politics-and-financing-dampen-house-prices-1.2370040 The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) estimates that average prices could be 11 per cent higher by the end of this year compared to last year’s prices. What this means, according to a 20-year veteran of the North’s property market, is that in some areas – chiefly what he describes as the employment corridor of Belfast, Lisburn and North Down – there is currently more demand than houses for sale. Samuel Dickey, who is the RICS spokesman for Northern Ireland, says this has led to the emergence in certain price brackets of bidding wars in Belfast again, a phenomenon not seen since the local brutal property crash of 2007. But he is not predicting that a new property bubble is about to develop soon because he says this time around the “buying public are much more educated”. “This is a completely different scenario than before and price-wise we are coming off a very low base – house prices in Northern Ireland are recovering from a massive fall, in some instances they fell 50 per cent below their peak. And there is also the issue of negative equity in Northern Ireland. Responsible“I believe everyone from buyers to estate agents and surveyors are much more responsible today. There may be a lack of supply in some areas but there is also an awareness that the market has to grow at a sustainable level, we’re not out of the woods yet,” Dickey says. He believes that “legacy issues” overhanging from the North’s short-lived property boom are just one of the factors dominating the local property market. “There is a lack of house-building in Northern Ireland, particularly when it comes to starter homes, and there are number of reasons for that. We all know there are some developers who are still coping with the legacy of debt. “There is also financing issues for companies that want to develop but cannot get financial backing from the banks who do not want exposure to the property sector, and then there is also the question of planning in Northern Ireland – we don’t have enough land available for development –and it’s all of these factors that contribute to why the housing market is where it is at the moment,” says Dickey.
  13. First time buyers getting high risk mortgages at a rate not seen since the financial crashhttp://www.mirror.co.uk/money/first-time-buyers-getting-high-6691880 High prices, slow-rising wages and Government schemes mean there are now more people taking out risky home loans that at any time since 2007One in seven first time buyers has taken out a potentially risky mortgage this year, the highest proportion since the financial crisis. Across the UK, 14.2% of first time buyer loans in the first half of the year were based on a high income multiple and low deposit, putting borrowers at risk of struggling to repay their loans if interest rates rise. Risky mortgages returnhttp://www.ftadviser.com/2015/09/25/mortgages/risk-mortgages-return-ODvIIWznjnmiHyTOJH1ISL/article.html Mortgage lending worldwide is becoming riskier, as the second-charge market continues to grow in the UK and subprime mortgages have been revived in the US. This surge in less secure mortgages may be worrisome, as irresponsible mortgage lending was one of the key factors that set off the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008. The ongoing search for yield has led some investors to endorse bonds backed by riskier US residential mortgages, preferring the label “non-prime mortgages” over the previously used subprime, but both refer to mortgages that do not meet government standards. American firm Lone Star Funds finalised a non-prime deal worth $72m (£46m) in August, and Angel Oak Capital is in the process of completing a non-prime mortgage bond offering. Consumers who may not qualify to remortgage could be approved for a second-charge loan, which are a type of secured loan. The borrower’s home is used as collateral if they cannot make the payments, but it has secondary priority to the first mortgage. The whole of the second charge market has seen consistent year-on-year growth since 2011 and it is estimated that £750m will be loaned under this type of scheme this year. Borrowers must be homeowners and have a first mortgage in order to get a second, but they do not necessarily have to live in the property, making it a new option for buy-to-let customers and landlords. Critics of second charge mortgages have voiced concerns that they involve lending to people who do not qualify for remortgaging and could therefore be classified as ‘risky borrowers’. Those defending the loans say there are checks in place to discourage irresponsible lending, and that credit ratings can often be skewed by minor factors.
  14. Property firm Arborhill Ltd goes into administrationhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34626100 A property firm which had been planning to develop a hotel in Lisburn has been put into administration. Arborhill Ltd has permission to build a 100-bedroom hotel on the Hillsborough Road. Filings at Companies House suggest the firm also owns an industrial property in east Belfast. The firm's last set of accounts, for 2014, show it had assets of around £4m and liabilities of around £5m. It had borrowing with the Bank of Ireland. The firm was controlled by the businessman Ken Cleland. Mr Cleland is a board member of the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation
  15. PAC calls for 'highly suspect' Belfast land deal to be re-investigatedExcellence within the property sector!!!!!!! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34586324 A government investigation should be re-opened into a "highly suspect" housing association land deal, a Stormont committee has said. Helm Housing paid £9.7m for the site on Great George's Street in Belfast in 2007, largely by way of a grant. The land was sold by Lacuna Developments, a firm that had acquired it earlier the same day for £6.5m. The public accounts committee (PAC) said it was "shocking" the developer made a £3.2m profit within hours. The PAC report also voiced concerns relating to Trinity Housing Association. It said it was "disturbed by a potential conflict of interest" involving its chief executive, Arthur Canning. His brother's house in Newtownards, County Down, was sold to a developer for £700,000, which the report described as "a premium price compared to other houses in the area". The Public Accounts Committee said Mr Canning "should have declared a conflict" as Trinity had registered an interest in a site which included a relation's property.
  16. Belfast Telegraph Property Awards 2015I hope NAMA wins something!!!!!!!!!!! http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/property-awards/belfast-telegraph-property-awards-2015-31590787.html The purpose of these awards is to celebrate excellence within the property sector in Northern Ireland and provide agencies, developers and young agents with an ideal platform to showcase outstanding work.
  17. Fifth of NI households in privately rented homes, survey suggestshttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34611174 More than 20% of Northern Ireland households now live in private rented accommodation, an official survey has suggested. That compares to just 10% of households being private renters a decade ago. The survey also indicates a sharp decline in the proportion of households buying with a mortgage. The details are contained in the Family Resources Survey, which covers about 2,000 households. The survey suggests that 21% of households are private renters, 14% are social renters, 29% have a mortgage and 39% own outright. The rise in private renting has been particularly sharp in younger age groups. In 2004, just 16% of people aged between 25 and 34 were private renters, but by 2014 that had jumped to 47%. There has been a corresponding fall in the proportion of 25 to 34-year-olds buying a home with a mortgage, down from 66% to 35%.
  18. Northern Irish families are still worst off in the UKhttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/northern-irish-families-are-still-worst-off-in-the-uk-34133025.html Even though Northern Ireland is still seeing the strongest percentage growth (15.1%) it lags behind the UK average in monetary terms. The report showed that factors affecting spending here include the fact Northern Ireland has the highest percentage of minimum wage workers compared to other regions. The average salary here trails behind the UK average of £22,044 by more than £3,000.
  19. Northern Ireland ranked among worst places to live in 'quality of life' surveyhttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/northern-ireland-ranked-among-worst-places-to-live-in-quality-of-life-survey-34131318.html
  20. Northern Ireland third last in UK-wide survey into digital skillshttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/technology/northern-ireland-third-last-in-ukwide-survey-into-digital-skills-34123624.html some 35% of adults here possess virtually no digital skills.
  21. 15% of businesses 'can't afford to pay new living wage'http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/15-of-businesses-cant-afford-to-pay-new-living-wage-31605993.html Meanwhile, the survey also revealed a loss of momentum in Northern Ireland's economic recovery with a deterioration in the performance of both the manufacturing and service sectors. Business confidence, competition and exchange rates were among the major worries highlighted in the survey. Peter Burnside, managing partner with business advisors BDO, said the results reflected the precarious state of the economic recovery. "The pace of economic recovery has slowed across the UK and this survey shows growth has slowed locally as well and that is disappointing.
  22. House prices rising fastest in Englandhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34514642 House prices in England have risen considerably faster than in the rest of the UK in the last year, official figures show. Property prices in England rose by 5.6% in the 12 months to the end of August, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. This was higher than a 2.9% rise in Northern Ireland, a 0.8% rise in Wales and a fall of 0.9% in Scotland. Overall, the pace of UK house price rises was unchanged in August compared with July.
  23. Nama NI deal: Details emerge of meeting between Peter Robinson and PIMCOhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-34520235 In its letter, PIMCO states an unsolicited approach was made to it by US law firm Brown Rudnick, which introduced it to "two other parties which it appeared to be working with". It does not name the other parties. It goes on to state it "was advised by these parties that the Northern Ireland government was concerned to ensure that there would not be a fire sale of homes and businesses". Instead, it wanted "a longer term approach to investment and development of the assets" by a purchaser. The Sinn Féin chairman of the Finance Committee, Daithí McKay, described details of the meeting as "a very significant development". He said PIMCO "mistakenly believed" the meeting was "taking place under the auspices of the executive." Mr McKay added: "It is the first time that any of the players in the sale of Nama's northern portfolio have put anything on the record about this secret meeting.
  24. Northern Ireland behind regional rivals despite growth in all sectors of economyhttp://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/northern-ireland-behind-regional-rivals-despite-growth-in-all-sectors-of-economy-31600185.html "The construction sector has seen a return to growth in output and orders in September. However, it continues to lag, and was the only sector to report a contraction in activity, orders and employment over the third quarter.
  25. More jobs paying below living wagehttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34505114 The ONS figures show that the proportion of jobs paying below the living wage has grown. In 2014, young adults were most likely to be paid less than the living wage. Some 58% of jobs carried out by 18 to 24-year-olds outside of London and 48% of jobs in this age group in London were paid less than the living wage. In accommodation and food services in 2014, an estimated 65% of jobs paid less than the living wage in London and 70% in the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland had 29% of jobs paying below the living wage, the highest in the country.
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