An under pressure market braces itself for possibly a chillier new year, Michael Daniels reports.
2018 saw Brexit spiral into a black hole of UK political chaos.
As the year draws to a close there is a real possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal in March.
With this unprecedented level of uncertainty, the implications of and planning for such an outcome looming ever closer, it was no surprise that the country property market felt the breeze, as confidence eroded along with the chances of an orderly exit.
This chill was felt especially in the super-prime sector where the market is heavily dependent on US and UK buyers not funded in euro and whom are more susceptible to a volatile market and currency fluctuation.
The inability to predict the Brexit outcome has frustrated purchasers as much as vendors and ultimately produced few trophy sales nationally despite a round of price reductions.
In contrast, business in the €500,000 - €1 million in the first half of the year was reasonable, if not exactly brisk with a good level of buyer activity being stifled by a lack of new stock, most of which was pitched at overly ambitious levels.
A quiet summer with signs of price falls in the Dublin, after double digit growth proved unsustainable, led to a quieter autumn season but there have been positive signs in November and December which should yield sales to feature in next year’s Price Register.
Concluded sales by my firm included Rockforest House, Mallow and Macloneigh House (€550,000 on the Register,) Macroom both on 20 acres together together with Ballyclogh House, Fermoy (€450,000 on the Price Register, which also doesn’t reflect/record the additional value of the land).
In the €1 million - €2 million bracket, we found overseas buyers for Ballyin Garden House, with seven riverside acres in Lismore (showing on the Price Register at €1.01m) and Rathcoursey House with 30 acres overlooking the East Ferry in Midleton (showing on the Price Register at €1.085m, and making excess €1.25m.)
Sales in the market above the €2.5 million mark proved hard to conclude and the heavy going led to substantial price cuts - Castlehyde House, Fermoy was relaunched in the summer with a 30% reduction (to €12.5 million) whilst Rocketts Castle, Portlaw, Ileclash House, Fermoy and Rathpeacon House, Killeens all saw falls in the order of 20%.
Nationally, the standout sale of the year would appear to be that of Castletowncox, Co Kilkenny – a Palladian mansion with 500 acres and one of Ireland’s most beautiful country houses, understood to have sold for more than €20 million, but yet to appear on the Register.
Elsewhere, the next was Kildare’s Dowdstown House at €3.4 million and Galtrim House in Co Meath at €3 million. Athgarvan House, Co Kildare sold for €2 million.
Other super-prime offerings launched last year did not fare as well as Castletowncox with Luggala, Co Wicklow at €28 million, Harristown, Co Kildare at €25 million and Knockdrin, Co Westmeath at €13.50 million awaiting buyers.
Of the few properties launched this year, Grange Con Stud in Kildare at €15 million remains available.
Closer to home Rocketts Castle in Co Waterford, at a reduced €4.75 million awaits a sale as do older entrants including Castlehyde Fermoy at €12.50 million and Liss Ard, Skibbereen at €7.5 million in Co Cork.
In top spot in Munster was the sale of the Lisselan Estate, Clonakilty after three years on the market at a reported €3 million, reduced from an initial €9 million over this period.
Ardcarrig in Bandon, not yet listed on the Price Register is believed to have secured in the region of €1.6m, whilst the Bilberry Estate in Midleton sold on the cusp of the New Year at a reported €1.75 million.
Elsewhere in Co Cork, Dunsland Glanmire set amidst 30 acres of wooded seclusion produced a figure around €1.8 million whilst in east Cork Rathcoursey House, Midleton, on 30 acres overlooking the East Ferry which made in excess of €1.25 million.
In West Cork, Glendoneen House and Ballywilliam House, Kinsale (home of singer Tori Amos) arrived to the market at €2 million and €1.45 million whilst Butlerstown House, Timoleague sold for in excess of €800,000 with The Red House, Castletownshend and Carrickfern, Glengariff making close to €1 million.
In Tipperary, Glenleigh House at the foot of The Vee in Clogheen, with 40 acres is believed to have fetched in the order of €750,000 whilst Bengurragh House, Cahir with 110 acres fetched well over €1 million.
Across into Co Waterford off-market sales including Ballyin Garden House, Lismore with seven acres of riverside gardens and The Rectory, Ardmore both making in excess of €1 million.
In Limerick, Fedamore House was a new entrant in March at €3.5 million whilst in Kerry, contemporary coastal properties Long Lake House, Sneem and An Culu, Kenmare came to the market during the year at €3.25 million and €4.5 million respectively with sales peaking around the €900,000 mark at Caragh Lake.
In Clare, Eden Vale, Ennis debuted at €3.5 million whilst Ballyhannon Castle made in excess of €1 million.
An uncertain 2019 lies ahead.
It is impossible not to take a hard Brexit out of the equation as the March deadline hovers into view, as it is difficult to see how the backstop circle can be squared.
The economy has been performing well above expectation – however, EU inspectors have warned of overheating risks and as well as expressing concern over a Brexit-related shock to our fragile banking system.
The ECB confirmed that it was to end its nine-year quantitative easing programme this month with some €2.50 trillion having been pumped into the Eurozone to sustain post-crash economies.
This is most likely a precursor to interest rates rising for the first time in over six years.
Michael Daniels SCSI/RICS is principal of Fermoy-based country property specialists Michael H. Daniels & Co