Esatate agent shuts office as houseing slump bites

One of the busiest estate agents in the north-west has shut a sales office and laid off staff as the housing market slump bites hard.

Industry chiefs attempted to play down effects of the downturn insisting the strength of the euro was also to blame.

At the height of the property boom in early 2007, Franklins was selling more than 60 homes a month in Donegal – that has dropped to 20 as buyers demand value.

It is understood three other agencies in the county are feeling the pinch and have dramatically scaled back their business or moved to new areas to drum up sales.

However, advisors at Franklins are urging clients to drop asking prices by as much as 24% if they are serious about selling.

The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers warned asking prices had to be realistic.

“I would not be surprised if there are unrealistic prices being asked from vendors, that their houses are sticking on the market,” Ipav chief executive Fintan McNamara said.

“Sales are taking place but where they are holding out for unrealistic, high prices they are not.”

According to the latest Permanent TSB/ESRI survey house, released earlier this month, prices fell 2.2% in the first quarter of the year and in the 12 months to April they dropped 8.9%.

Five Franklins’ staff have been laid off with the closure of the Buncrana branch due to the downturn in business.

Brendan McGee, director of the firm, said the Inishowen peninsula was worst affected with a huge drop in northern buyers.

“This is a big thing, there’s a lot of agents out there who continue to stick to their guns. But we have an honest appraisal of what things need to be reduced by,” he said.

“We have monitored it very closely and it’s a fact that only properties being reduced by somewhere between 15-24% are the ones that are selling.”

The strength of the euro against sterling has also caused problems with Ipav insisting the housing market was only experiencing the pressures of the wider economy.

He pointed to claims that Irish branches of British retailers were not selling items for the euro equivalent value.

Mr McGee said hundreds of properties in the north-west were overpriced and buyers were being misled.

“I honestly think in a lot of cases that they (buyers) have got a bit of an advantage. I’m not trying to run down competitors but I would seriously question the figure that is the agent’s own value.

“Some agents look and say that we are reducing prices unnecessarily, the figures speak for themselves.”

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