Buyers snap up Millmount Village homes as housebuilding market heats up in Northern Ireland
Building work is under way on thousands of new homes on sites across Northern Ireland - including a 700-house development in Belfast - as prices edge upwards.
Pent-up demand from buyers, coupled with the release of large sections of development land previously held by banks and Nama, is creating a surge in construction and sales.
Two of Northern Ireland's largest-ever housing developments are under way in east Belfast and Newtownards.
The £120m Millmount Village scheme covers a 90-acre site off the Comber Road in Dundonald and will run to 700 houses when complete in about 10 years' time.
Some 80 houses are already finished and the owners moved in this summer.
Detached homes are going for up to £215,000 and semis cost from £162,500. Bungalows and flats will be built later.
"The growing demand for housing in Northern Ireland has been well documented, with less than half of the projected need over the last eight years having been delivered," said Conor Mulligan, managing director of Lagan Homes, the company behind Millmount.
"Under-supply is in the region of around 40,000 homes, so projects like Millmount and our new sites in Bangor are crucial to helping address that residential need."
Estate agent Simon Brien, who is selling homes in some of the biggest developments, said the housing market was finally recovering after the recession.
"Between 2007 and 2014 there was virtually no new building at all, but now people feel that we've reached the bottom of the market," he explained.
"A lot of the large sites were being held by the banks, Nama or Cerberus, and now that they have been released to developers work has started.
"The market is not like it was in 2007, when speculators were rushing in to buy homes as investments. Most of those buying now are owner occupiers and that's good to see.
"Prices are moving up by around 3% to 5% a year, which is steady and sustainable."
He added that the Millmount scheme was proving popular because of its proximity to the Comber Greenway and improved infrastructure in the area.
"People like the area because it's close to Belfast," he said. "They can cycle in via the Greenway and, ultimately, a new road will link the Comber Road with the Upper Newtownards Road.
"It's also close to major employment centres like the Ulster Hospital and the many government offices at Stormont."
Elsewhere, work has started on 1,000 homes at Rivenwood in Newtownards.
Other major schemes include the old Belvoir Hospital site in south Belfast, which will accommodate 300 homes. The first phase of the development sold out within hours.
Just over 100 houses are being built in Templepatrick, with buyers snapping up properties soon after release. At the Windrush Park scheme in Antrim, meanwhile, almost half of the 50 units have already been sold.
The proliferation of development sites is a welcome boost for construction. The Millmount scheme will employ at least 100 workers over the next decade, with hundreds more finding contracts on other sites.
The surge of interest in new developments is not yet reflected in the official house sales data.
According to the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and Ulster Bank Residential Market Survey, the number of new sales instructions - new houses coming to the market - remained flat during August and new buyer enquiries dropped for the third time in four months.