Like every young couple planning to get married, Andrew Norris and Fiona Rankin were looking for a special first home.
Now the pair are popping Champagne corks after snapping up a restored mill at a bargain price to settle down in together.
IT consultant Andrew (26), from Ballynahinch, and his law student fiancée Fiona (23) , from Newtownards, were among hundreds of hopeful buyers who turned up at BRG Auctions on Tuesday night to buy up properties at knock-down prices.
The couple, who currently live in Belfast and are getting married in six months, had their sights set on the restored mill in Comber which had a minimum price tag of £100,000. The property had previously changed hands for £600,000.
When the hammer came down, though, a successful bid of £239,500 from Andrew and Fiona meant they were the proud owners of their first home. The unusual abode is a restored original stone mill which had been abandoned halfway through the project. Neither Andrew nor Fiona had ever bought a house prior to the auction and are both living in rented accommodation.
The couple did their homework, however, working out their budget and researching any legal issues with regard to the Comber mill.
Andrew explained: "We had been looking at property for a long time. We wanted something a bit different, something with character, and then we saw this." The couple knew it would be a project as, although it is finished outside, everything else needs to be added from electricity and plumbing to new kitchen, bathroom and internal doors.
"We were always looking for either an unfinished property or something that needed upgrading as we wanted to put our own stamp on the place. This will be our family home for many years to come," he said.
Andrew and Fiona have had family help raising the deposit and it will be all hands on deck when they start finishing out the house. "I can do most of the simple things myself, but I'll get the experts in to do the electrics, plumbing and heating," added Andrew. "We will do one room at a time, we are in no rush."
And the canny pair had a secret weapon at auction to make sure they got their dream home – Andrew's mum Valerie.
"She has been to many auctions before buying different things. It is a very exciting atmosphere at auction, and I was worried that I might panic and do something wrong," Andrew said.
But Valerie kept a cool head after discussing with the couple what their budget was, and snapping up the Comber home amid frenzied bidding.
The couple plan to move in as soon as they can.