PEOPLE slept in cars overnight as first-time buyers with young families competed to buy one of 27 properties at the weekend - with all properties selling out within an hour.
Buyers queued in their cars overnight on Friday in a bid to secure properties at the new Heathfield estate in Ballincollig, just outside Cork city.
The houses - priced at €325,000 for a three-bed and €375,000 for a four-bed semi - sold out within in an hour.
The scenes were described as 'like the Hunger Games for housing' by the Labour Party on social media.
And Savills agent, Catherine McAuliffe, said she’d never witnessed anything like this in Co Cork before.
Ms McAuliffe, director of residential sales in Cork, said: “We didn’t expect the turnout ourselves, certainly not people queuing overnight.
“But it’s about location - this is Ballincollig, on the edge of city, with access to the ring round round the city, so basically that’s access to everywhere quickly.
“All 27 properties sold out in an hour on Saturday. Demand is obviously driven potentially by the fact the Help to Buy Scheme is coming to an end.
“We don’t have may first-time buyer houses in Cork city, or close to city, so I think this was really driven by demand.
“A lot of people are loan approved and are just waiting for that type of product to come along, especially in that particular area.
“I haven’t seen it before - I have heard of a couple of sites who had two or three cars (queuing overnight) but nothing like what we’ve seen this weekend, to be honest.”
People took to social networks to criticise the site of cars parking overnight in Cork - something extremely unusual outside Dublin.
Woody Manning took to Facebook to write: “This is absolutely shocking. How do people with young families have a chance?”
Alan O’Neill wrote: “People are working mental hours, sacrificing their lives just to pay back some bank mortgage.
“Who can afford a €350,000 for a house...why are people bowing to the demands of society and the economy, feeling the need to sleep in their cars, to view a house?”
While Aisling Doyle wrote: “The Celtic Tiger is back again…imagine being in your car (overnight) sitting in the dark, in cold weather, not being able to move out of fear of losing your place in the queue.
“I’m sorry for anyone sitting in their car (overnight)...working the hours they do, to save to buy a home...this genuinely goes against Irish culture.
“It’s not funny, it’s not to be taken lightly...where will we be in five years.”
Ms McAuliffe said she felt the houses were a “good price.”
“You can certainly buy cheaper than that but I think it was the location that’s really driven it,” she added.
“They are very nice houses, Ballincollig is its own town, in its own right, on the edge of the city, with good access to everywhere.
“A lot of buyers are living locally. The buyers were young families, first-time buyers, probably 70 pc were first time buyers.
“The next release of houses (in this development) will be in the Summer this year but the houses selling now won’t be ready ‘til next year.”
Fine Gael councillor for Ballincollig, Derry Canty, said: “I saw the cars there myself. Buyers wouldn't be on the site (overnight) unless they were able to afford the properties, so it’s fair enough.
“Ballincollig is a growing town, we’re near Cork city and there’s good schools and amenities and great city access.
“There’s four housing schemes going on in Ballincollig at the moment. I wish whoever bought the houses well and hopefully they’ll be happy and settle down in Ballincollig.”
The Help to Buy scheme is available until December 31 this year.
Last year Independent.ie reported that the Government initiative which offers tax breaks of up to €20,000 had been blamed for inflating property prices during the housing crisis.
Critics also said the scheme was benefiting only house buyers at the higher end of the market.