The Northern Ireland housing market ended 2014 as it began it, with prices and sales rising and surveyors expecting the trend to continue, according to the latest RICS and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey.

RICS expects Northern Ireland house prices to rise by 4% in 2015, which is higher than the expectation of 3% for the UK average.

The latest survey suggests that demand in the local housing market remains relatively robust, with new buyer enquiries continuing to rise at a faster rate than new vendor instructions - indicating that there is a continuing lack of supply.

In terms of prices, December was the 19th consecutive month that the headline price balance was in positive territory (indicating an increase in prices).

The local housing market is expected to benefit from the reform of stamp duty, with the large majority of homebuyers here paying less of the tax. This will help encourage activity. In terms of prices, the gap between demand and supply is creating upward pressure. However, the slowing economic recovery and public spending environment will present challenges for the market. Overall, RICS expects prices to rise on average 4% this year, a moderation in growth relative to 2014.

Samuel Dickey, RICS Northern Ireland

Ulster Bank saw mortgage demand remain strong in the final quarter of 2014, and we expect that to continue into this year, particularly from the home mover and first time buyer segments. We have a range of mortgage options available at historically low levels and we remain committed to lending to all sectors of the market.

Derek Wilson, Head of Lending Products at Ulster Bank