1,000 new houses and 500 jobs to be created in Northern Ireland's biggest housing development in decade
Northern Ireland is set to get its biggest housing development in 10 years as part of a £200m project in Co Down.
Carryduff firm Fraser Houses hopes to build 1,000 properties off the Movilla Road in Newtownards.
The Rivenwood development is expected to create around 500 jobs and will take around 10 to 12 years to finish.
The 'New England' style properties on a 107-acre site east of the Co Down town are priced between £132,000 and £192,000.
It's the second major housing development announced in recent months after Lagan Homes said it would be building 550 family houses in two locations in Bangor.
Estate agent Simon Brien, who will sell the homes, said the news was an indicator of a strengthening market. Prices crashed by as much as 60% as the downturn took hold from the end of 2007.
Mr Brien said his company had seen an increase in sales of around 25% year-on-year and a rise in average prices of between seven and 8%.
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He said: "We are seeing a lot more confidence in the market, when people are buying they are not worried about prices going down. Areas like Lisburn, east Belfast and North Down have been particularly strong. Rent is going up but mortgages have stayed quite low so couples who had previously been put off buying are now finding it to be more attractive, so I expect that the homes will be very popular."
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers' Federation (CEF), welcomed the new development but said even more new houses were needed to avoid another property bubble.
He said: "No one wants to return to the likes of 2007 but unless we build more we simply will not meet demand."
The Northern Ireland housing market hit the doldrums in 2008 when prices plummeted.
They slumped by up to 60% after 2007's peak of an average price of £240,400, according to Ulster University's house price index.
They started to pick up again around 2013 and the average house price is now £154,685, according to the university's index.
The CEF has said that between 7,600 and 11,300 houses are needed every year in Northern Ireland to replace existing housing and cope with market demand. However, last year, just over 3,200 new homes were registered here, and that was up 30% on the year before.
Alan Fraser of Fraser Houses said the development would create around 500 jobs.
"Demand for property in Northern Ireland is increasing and confidence in the market is on the rise. Rivenwood will not only bring a range of unique and stylish homes to a desirable location in north Down, it will create an estimated 500 jobs and support a wide range of local industry-related companies," he said.
"The houses are designed to appeal to all demographics, whether first time buyers, families, retired couples - there's a range of homes to suit all tastes and requirements.
"The New England style has a fresh new look and adds a touch of class to these homes which are in an ideal location only minutes from Newtownards town centre, yet on the edge of open countryside."
Planning permission has already been granted for the first 100 homes and building will begin this summer.
The first sales release is expected next month with the first houses to be completed in December 2016.