One of Northern Ireland's largest homebuilders is to accept the digital currency Bitcoin.

Ballyclare-based Hagan Homes is believed to be the first firm of its kind in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland to take the step.

The worldwide payment system enables peer-to-peer transactions between users without an intermediary.

Managing director Jamesy Hagan said: "Bitcoin is an innovative new payment method and essentially a new kind of money. It is very similar to a cash transaction.

"There has been a significant growth in the use of Bitcoin worldwide and our acceptance of this new channel reflects our willingness to respond to the market."

Hagan Homes recorded a turnover of more than £18 million in 2016/17 and marked its second biggest year of home completions since it was established almost 30 years ago.

A total of 207 homes across 15 sites in Northern Ireland were completed, an 8% increase on the previous year.

Mr Hagan added: "The international appeal of Northern Ireland is continuing to grow.

"There are an increasing number of international investors establishing businesses in Northern Ireland and subsequently this means that the number of people wanting to live, work or invest in Northern Ireland is increasing."

He acknowledged challenges facing the new currency.

"Of course, there are some risks to using Bitcoin for payment due to the cryptocurrency's volatility, but buyers and sellers are finding creative ways to deal with these challenges," he said.

"By incorporating the learning from our peers into our approach we can embrace this innovation."