Scarcity of houses for sale adds spice to West Cork property market

Scarcity of houses for sale adds spice to West Cork property market
Eimear O’Herlihy, director of West Cork Literary Festival, novelist and poet Nick Laird, Graham Norton and novelist Zadie Smith in Maritime Hotel, Bantry, for West Cork Literary Festival. Pic: Darragh Kane

Tommy Barker, property editor, assesses the appetite for property in West Cork.

Brexit is impacting on the health of the property market in Bantry. No surprise. It’s hitting all of West Cork.

It’s hitting confidence all over Cork. It’s hitting towns connected with agriculture — half of Munster, and most or the Republic — and it’s causing havoc up around the Border counties.

And, we still don’t know the half it it or the shape of it, or the texture (hard? soft? no deal?), or the eventual outcome in a few short years to come, when the dust settles.

But, given the focus of this publication, it’s clearly hitting West Cork, and places like Bantry which traditionally would always have had a significant cohort of property buyers from the UK, whether returning Irish, or lifestyle seekers. There’s a couple of peninsulae, as well as hilly enclaves and the headlands sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean that turn towards Bantry as their service point, a reference point and a pivot place to call home, which attracts callers from far and wide.

Bantry market? It’s muted, right now, Not dead in the water, clearly.

Even a cursory walk around the town shows an upgrade in commercial and hospitality offerings, there’s a feelgood factor — even if commercial property is generally slow on the uptake, and shops hard to find new uses for.

The highly influential festivals are a huge boon and reflect a new-found or at least reinvigorated vibrancy, from the Literary Festival to the Chamber Music Festival, or the Masters of Tradition Festival, the early September Agriculture Show and to the June Walking Festival.

There’s a huge draw to visit. Some even buy.

West Cork’s celebrity stamp of approval

Major TV talent and media celeb, and now author writing novels with the Bantry area in his sights (and, sites) view, Graham Norton is a well-bedded-down resident out towards Ahakista, and a well known local positive ambassadorial presence.

Norton’s a one-man band for beating Bantry’s drum whenever he gets the chance, and in recent years he has been joined by less visible but acclaimed writers like Zadie Smith, and her husband, Northern Ireland poet Nick Laird, as creatives and artists who seek inspiration in the area’s beauty. That creative couple bought a spot on the Sheep’s Head peninsula, maybe four or five years ago.

But, if you are a vendor, don’t get your hopes up for similar ‘pay dirts’ from other high-profile writers, or artists, or musicians visiting Bantry for festivals (many of them famous, only some of them rich) won over by the undoubted beauty and area’s ability to foster creativity: Smith/Laird reportedly bought a do-er upper, for c €100k, and have been working on it since!

Since the market ‘recovered’, a few years back, you’d be hard-pressed to buy anything in the wider Bantry hinterland for €100k+, bar a site.

Today? You might get a site to build on from €50k+ and a house in varying order from €100k upwards (and €500k upwards isn’t unknown as an asking price either).

However, if you are a first-time buyer, and would like to take advantage of the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, you might be short-changed for choice, there’s hardly a New Homes scheme in Bantry town or catchment which will qualify right now.

Surprisingly, given the dearth of new homes under construction in a West Cork town noted for its stock of able builders and tradespeople, there’s little on offer right now, despite the fact the provision of basic infrastructure services like waste and water has recently picked up. Instead, you might be encouraged (forced) to look further afield, to spots like Durrus, Dunmanway or even Clonakilty for new, qualifying homes’ options right now, with new stock on offer in a spot like Durrus from €165,000.

Local sources say that people coming to Bantry for work are prepared for a commute, instancing Gardaí being stationed in Bantry prepared to live and buy in places like Clonakilty, a 45-minute ‘commute’ away.

Hey! 45 minutes? That’s nothing in Dublin, but is it necessary in West Cork?

On the broader (albeit restricted) picture of place to buy/purchase, buying it’s even tighter if you want to rent.

Scarcity of properties

Input a ‘Bantry’ location search, and Daft.ie has just three current listings, ranging from a single bedroom in a town property with

private bathroom and shared other facilities, at €90 a week, with a commitment to a year’s lease.

The website’s other meagre two offers are at €1,200 a month, one of a quite cool looking two-bed townhouse, the other at the same price point is for a four/five-bed modern rural dormer.

Myhome website has just two rental listings, from €750 per month, but given the level of demand, vs the supply, not all rental properties even (or, ever) make it to the listings, as agents work off an inquiry list.

Seasoned local agent John O’Neill, of Bantry’s REA Celtic Properties, reckons the rental price point currently for a three-bed home in the wider Bantry area is about €900 a month.

Given his long experience locally, REA’s Mr O’Neill is also tuned into the more subtle undertones of home hunters from overseas in the wider Bantry catchment, while acknowledging the impact of the reduced value of Sterling for British-based home hunters in West Cork.

Scarcity of houses for sale adds spice to West Cork property market

While acknowledging it’s far from a trend, he says he’s had a few sales worth observing to English/UK/British buyers who’ve been domiciled away from their own native island mainland of Britain, in spots like France, Portugal and Spain, who are concerned about free movement in a year or two’s hence and who reckon that the Irish/British historic ‘Common Travel Agreement’— going back decades almost to the foundation of the State — will stand to their favour if living in south west Ireland, if in the future they should need to travel to and from the British mainland at short notice and relative ease, to visit children, grandchildren … or doctors.

Notably, too, that same age cohort (with considerable life experience attached) also shows a market and financial markets savyness, he reveals, saying he’s had a few home hunters who’ve been happy (ish) to take a hit on their Sterling exchange value right now to buy in a spot like Bantry, but who have ‘white flags’ up

a-fluttering about how their possibly fixed/retirement incomes might fare in one, two, five or ten years time.

How right? Answers on a stamped, self-addressed postcard, please.

This story appears in the Bantry Living supplement inserted with the Irish Examiner print edition of Friday, August 30, 2019.

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