Housing market taking off as first-time buyers snap up homes still to be built
First-time buyers and investors are helping to revive Northern Ireland's stagnant property market, experts believe.
A turnaround in the market in sought-after areas has seen new properties snapped up before they are built, bidding wars between prospective buyers and price rises in the tens of thousands of pounds, estate agents have revealed.
A house in Belfast's Stranmillis area that was put on the market at £250,000, recently sold for £312,000 after a bidding war between a number of interested parties.
And in Co Down, several new housing developments have sold out before completion.
However, large numbers of properties across Northern Ireland remain in serious negative equity, with many homeowners unable to make the move up or even sideways within the market.
Apartment owners have been particularly vulnerable to negative equity.
A two-bedroom apartment at College Mews in south Belfast recently sold for £95,000. The seller had bought the property for £230,000 before the housing crisis hit, Paddy Turley from UPS told the Belfast Telegraph.
But according to Mr Turley, it is a brighter picture for first-time buyers.
"In the new-build market aimed at first-time buyers, we are seeing properties getting snapped up from the plans. There is a higher level of demand now and buyer confidence is there.
"We are seeing a lot of first-time buyers jumping straight to the three-bedroom semi and no longer going for the two-bedroom apartment," said Mr Turley.
He added: "Also what we are seeing more and more of is first-time investors. But it is no longer a quick money-making exercise. Investors are relying on rental income and hoping capital value will increase over time."
South Belfast is one of the biggest property hotspots at the moment, with homes in Stranmillis and Malone being snapped up, Mr Turley said.
"We have to be careful with house prices. We don't want to get caught up in the hype that prices are increasing and buyers then want to buy just for the sake of buying.
"In south Belfast, Malone and Stranmillis are seeing price increases, and not just single figures. We are seeing them increasing by double figures, even on last year.
"The supply of good properties in these areas is still low. People who could not afford these areas during peak times can now make the change."
In Downpatrick, four new developments recently sold out from the plans. In particular, Quoile Crescent in the town, where development was halted following the 2008 crash, has seen 10 homes recently booked by interested buyers even before completion.
Mary Lou Press from Alexander Reid and Frazer Estate Agents in Downpatrick said that things within the market were "brilliant".