Lisney: Leaving traditional housing models behind

Lisney: Leaving traditional housing models behind
Margaret Kelleher, director, Lisney Cork, She believes what financial crash of 2008 was exceptional and will not be repeated.

Involved in all aspects of the residential, commercial, licensed and investment property markets, Lisney has navigated a variety of choppy waters during its time in Cork — including challenging periods such as the closure of the Dunlop and Ford plants in the early 1980s, and, more recently, the extended economic meltdown that began in 2008.

Having grown and prospered through periods of economic change over that half century, the company marks its 50th milestone with fulsome credit due to the quality and enthusiasm of staff and personnel.

“We have fantastic people working in Lisney and we pride ourselves on our professionalism and integrity,” Margaret Kelleher explains.

“With a highly-qualified internal research team and a database of market information dating from 1960, Lisney provides insightful and reliable advice for its investment, financial, developer and occupier clients.”

She adds that the depth and quality of research and advice available to clients has led to repeat business and client relationships that have passed through generations.

With 28 years of experience in the commercial property market with Lisney and a client list that includes Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Cork City Council, Blackstone, CIE, Dairygold and Primark among her private and corporate clients, Margaret has witnessed the transformation of Cork through its challenging periods over the years into its current vibrant and expansive stage.

“Infrastructure has played a major part in the growth of the city. The development of the South City Link road network and Jack Lynch Tunnel, in particular, have opened up tracts of land for development.

"The development of suburban business parks in Eastgate, Cork Airport Business Park, City Gate in Mahon have changed the commercial landscape in Cork, and there is currently 1,000,000sq ft of offices under construction in the city at this time. This is very positive for office occupiers who wish to have a base in the city.”

The city’s investment market remained busy in the last quarter, recording a turnover of €150 million and accounting for almost 12.5% of the market nationally during that period. She lists the FDI sector as having been very important for Cork’s attractiveness to multinational companies, as well as existing companies who are in a period of expansion.

In addition, the opening of the commuter train line to Midleton has encouraged significant development to the east of the city.

“In the residential market, the Property Price Register and technology have vastly increased the level of property information available to homebuyers and there is now much more transparency in the market, which is good news for prospective buyers,” Margaret said.

The introduction of purpose built student accommodation in the city has also changed the residential landscape, along with the sale of all existing private rented sector stock.

At the moment, planning permission is being sought for over 650 beds in three separate developments for private rented stock in the city centre, which will hopefully alleviate some of the rental demand.” Having been eyewitness to the challenges endured following the economic downturn of 2008, she observes a different property landscape in the Ireland of today.

“In Lisney, we have come through many downturns/recessions and certainly 2008 was exceptional.

"What we have found is that in difficult times, clients rely on accurate market advice backed up by experience and knowledge to develop strategies to work through the downturn. The relationships we build with our client base in the good times tend to sustain us through the bad times.”

She believes what happened in 2008 was exceptional and will not be repeated:

“Today, there isn’t the same level of credit available to consumers or businesses. The Irish banks have better capital buffers to deal with shocks now. Also, much of the commercial stock in the country has been acquired by international investors who are more resilient in terms of risk, given their international exposure.”

She points out that since 2012, international investors have made up 60% of commercial investment transactions in the country. By way of comparison, between 2000 and 2006 these investors made up just 7% of the market.

“In addition to this, the number of people in employment in Ireland is at an all-time high. Our population has increased since 2008 and is forecast to increase further. All of these factors create demand for property. The residential property market in particular is underpinned by strong demand and limited supply and the Central Bank mortgage lending rules are ensuring that there is a control on borrowing.”

She also notes that property values are still below the peak achieved in the last cycle in most sectors.

Housing and its affordability for young people remains a significant problem in 2019, but one with a degree of light at the end of the tunnel.

“The key to improve affordability is the continued supply of new homes. For example, in Cork now, there are 41 new home schemes available for sale and our research shows there were 1,750 units completed in 2018.

This compares to a low of 570 in 2013. So while the number of units reaching completion is growing, we need to see this delivery reaching at least 2500 units per annum to meet demand. The Help-to-Buy scheme has also been of benefit to first time buyers and I think its continuation is important.

With Cork’s population set to increase significantly in the coming years, the traumas of the downturn are in the rear-view mirror as the city and its hinterland look set to enjoy the economic renaissance already well established. “Cork has a pivotal role to play under the National Planning Framework, Ireland 2040, with strong population growth targets to increase the population by 50/60%.

It is envisaged that much of this growth will be accommodated within the existing urban footprint, reflecting increased height and density with development in the docklands being a key component.”

Looking to the future, the city has a blank canvas upon which the next 50 years of growth will be etched. “The challenge for us, as the second city, is to get our fair share of Foreign Direct Investment and to become a location of choice for employers and their staff,” she says.

“Areas like the city quays are now offering a Grade A office accommodation varying from 5,000 sq ft to in excess of 100,000 sq ft, which should appeal to all sectors of the market.

"We have a relatively blank canvas in Cork docklands which gives us a great opportunity to create really interesting living and working communities, to assist with this further investment is needed in infrastructure by Government.” Having experienced many changes in her 28 years in the property business, Margaret Kelleher looks to a future where changed traditional models and sustainability will underpin much of the market.

“I see are a continued shift away from traditional housing models and this change being embraced by the market. We are seeing this already with more people inclined to rent by choice, as well as necessity.” She lists other accommodation options that warrant exploration as higher quality residential schemes with a variety of amenities, as well as co-living.

“We need to plan for developments which offer residents the flexibility to trade up and down over their life cycle, but still remain part of the same community. Sustainability, both in the construction or operation of buildings will also have to become more central to overall considerations.”

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