John Minnis, who runs an estate agency of the same name, said: “The pandemic has massively opened up a big flow of buyers coming back to Northern Ireland. Generally from England, but also we have sold to people coming back from Dubai, Singapore, America and New Zealand.”
He added: “Before, the option was only open to people who worked for themselves, or had very flexible bosses. Now, for London workers it is win-win. They can get four times the house, and keep their London salary.”
The Northern Irish education system is a major draw. Unlike England, Northern Ireland did not scrap the grammar school system, which makes up a third of the country’s post-primary schools.
Before the pandemic, 40pc of family houses listed in affluent areas would get interest from buyers moving back from England. “Now, every family house I put on the market will have interest from outside of Northern Ireland,” said Mr Mannis.
Beth Robinson, of Templeton Robinson estate agents, said returnees account for 10pc of family home sales in Belfast, double the 5pc share before the pandemic. Buyers are typically aged between 35 and 50 and are coming back with children.
Agents are sanguine about Brexit. “Honestly, it was the lack of decision that was the problem,” added Ms Robinson.
“In 2019, we sold two properties over £1m. Every time we were close with a deal it fell by the wayside because they wanted to wait and see In 2020, we sold five, but we were closed for three months. This year I’m predicting we will be back up to 10 or 12.”