There are some signs of a bright new dawn after the stagnation and uncertainty of recent times, writes Kevin O’Neill.
Property prices in Co Waterford remain stagnant as uncertainty clouds the market. 2019 has been a difficult year for sellers in the county, with prices unchanged, the number of properties sold decreasing, and the time taken to sell a house increasing.
There is a buzz in some areas — particularly when it comes to the renewal of the city’s North Quays, and the prospect of it bringing additional employment — but this has yet to translate through to the wider property market.
There were 675 homes sold in the first half of 2019, according to MyHome.ie. This was the third-lowest total in Munster — only Co Clare and Co Kerry were lower — and represented a 3.7% decline in the numbers sold year-on-year. Only Co Limerick saw a bigger drop-off over the same period.
To illustrate the extent of the decline in Co Waterford, consider that in Munster as a whole, sales were up 0.2%.
In MyHome.ie’s Property Report for Q3, 2019, it was reported that asking prices for a three-bed semi-detached house remain unchanged at €175,000 in Waterford. This is the second-lowest in Munster, with only Co Tipperary lower at €169,000 — but that figure for Tipperary represented a 2.42% increase.
If prices continued to grow at this modest rate in Tipperary, they would exceed Waterford in the next 12 months.
However, it is not all bad news. The two-bed apartment sector, a small element of the property market, is showing strong growth in Co Waterford. Property prices for this part of the market were up 11.25% in a 12-month period to an average asking price of €89,000, while the price of four-bed semi-detached houses dropped by 0.14% to €177,500, a minimal decline.
There is diversity in the market in Waterford, though. In the city, prices were up 3.2% to an average of €129,000, according to MyHome.ie, with prices varying broadly in different parts of the county. Demand remains high in some parts of the county, with Dungarvan and Dunmore East, for example, continuing to attract buyers.
The CSO reported that 111 units were sold in Waterford City in July, including 17 new properties. It was the highest single monthly figure on the record published by the CSO, which included data since January 2010. The figure declined again in August to 81, but this is still at the high end of the market for the year to August.
The profile of buyers in the area is not unlike those in other parts of the country. First-time buyers account for a quarter of transactions, and non-occupiers are also one-quarter.
In Dungarvan, though, the picture is a little different. Prices were at an average of €189,000, with non-occupiers representing a smaller portion at just 19%. First-time buyers accounted for 29% of sales in the year-to-date, though the number of properties sold was not as significant. For example, in July, 13 properties were sold, six of which were new builds.
In the Kilmacthomas Eircode area, investment properties were an even smaller slice of the pie — just 14% — but the number of new builds being sold is essentially non-existent. There was one each in May and November 2018 and none to date this year.
Average prices were €172,000, but the number of properties being sold remains in the single digits every month since April. In their most recent report, the Real Estate Alliance noted that prices remained static throughout the city and county. There were a variety of reasons cited.
“There is still a shortage of stock in Waterford, but demand has also cooled,” said Des O’Shea of REA O’Shea O’Toole in Waterford City.
Eamonn Spratt of REA Spratt, Dungarvan, described the activity as “patchy” adding that the mood around Brexit is having a “noticeable impact, both on vendors considering bringing a property to the market and on buyers considering purchasing”.
REA reported that the period of time a property spends on the market before it sells is increasing too — from nine weeks to ten weeks on average. While there is some sense of uncertainty in the private sales market, there are concerns about the private rental market.
In Waterford city, rents have jumped by 10% in a year, surpassing the €1,000-per-month mark for the first time ever, while county rents are increasing at an even faster rate as people are priced out of the city.
The surge in rents is prompting some interest in the market in Waterford from investors: one-quarter of all sales in Waterford in the year to date have been by non-occupiers, according to the CSO. This matches the amount bought by first-time buyers.
It remains to be seen just how significant an issue this will be in the longer term in Waterford but it has contributed to the issues facing buyers in Cork, Dublin and Galway, for example, with many forced further and further from urban centres as properties are out of their reach.