The new property hotspots... areas that boost chances of school entry
Ulster home-buyers are jockeying to live in top grammar school postcodes - despite the overhaul of the selection procedure and indications that the market is steadying, it has been claimed.
One Northern Irish estate agent said the 'postcode lottery' - whereby children living closest to a particular school would stand a better chance of admission there - was still a "very real fear" among parents.
Co Down estate agent John Minnis said areas of the market have slowed in the past couple of weeks.
"However, this has revealed property hotspots where bidding is as keen as ever and the signs suggest very real fears among parents of a postcode lottery, as a number of these sales have been motivated by a property's proximity to a preferred grammar school," he said.
Thousands of primary school children across the province are living in limbo as the argument over the future of selection process in the province rumbles on.
The transfer test is due to be abolished in 2009 and, as yet, no replacement has been established, with Education Minister Caitriona Ruane remaining tight-lipped about when an announcement will be made.
"Whether or not you agree with the principle behind the new post-primary arrangements, I think parents have a very real fear of the potential for a so-called postcode lottery and that's been evident in our offices all summer," added Mr Minnis.
" Over the summer we handled many sales where the buyers identified their new home specifically on the grounds of its proximity to grammar schools like Sullivan Upper in Holywood, Our Lady and St Patrick's at Knock and Regent House in Newtownards.
"This notion of a postcode lottery could motivate many house moves and put a whole new complexion on what makes an area desirable.
"We're even seeing people from outlying areas investing in small town centre buy-to-let properties in the like of Bangor or in former Housing Executive houses, just so they have a home address within their preferred school's catchment."
Fears over the future of the post-primary selection system are now also prompting house moves closer to grammar schools' feeder primaries.
"A number of our buyers had moved quite substantial distances so their children could attend a particular grammar school's feeder primary in the hope that this too might go in their favour should that grammar school be over-subscribed," said Mr Minnis.
"The result of a postcode lottery could result in house prices in areas within grammar school catchments rising substantially."