Sellers should try to get the price tag right

The market is full of surprises, and vendors have to pay attention to guide prices, writes Tommy Barker.

If there’s a word or phrase of advice for intending house sellers, for 2019, it may well be “get your price guide right.”

The year just ended was uneven, rather than rocky, with external factors mostly plus some lending restrictions, serving to calm the market and — some good news at least for buyers — slow price inflation.

In 2018 hindsight, (with foresight, in two years’ time, we’ll claim ‘2020 hindsight’ with impunity), it was the houses/vendors who priced in ‘expected’ 2018 inflation into their asking prices that saw stock stick, in lots of cases.

Sensibly-priced stuff, with vendors persuaded not to overreach expectations (a polite word for ‘greedy’?) meant transactions trundled through eventually, likely to be in the mid-5,000s in sale volume terms across Cork city and county, approximately the same number of deals as it has been annually since 2015.

But, getting sales over the line meant more work for estate agents, more hand-holding, more attention at viewings, more follow-up with solicitors, more advance work on the legals before listing, and more scrutiny of bidders’ financial ability to deliver.

The advice to get the guide price right on launch, to back it up with marketing, and then see where the market takes it, came from agent Jeremy Murphy, among others, who added “we were busy all year, but not as productive — there was a lot of work involved.”

And then the market makes up its own mind, and there’s the sort of stroke of os success vendors might make a New Year wish for.

A case in point was a house he listed in 2018, the contemporary 3,000 sq ft architect-designed Laurel House at Clash, just off the hot-spot Model Farm Road. It had been on the market in 2017 with a €895k guide with other agents. After a year unsold, when Mr Murphy listed it, he persuaded the vendors to guide at €795,000.

It wasn’t a deliberate tactic, but it attracted a wider cohort: first offer was €795,000, and 17 bids later (that’s a lot for a house at this price level, against other up-market new stock competition in the likes of local new-builds such as Rosefield and Steeplewoods), and it sold for €875,000 in October, to buyers who had not looked at it when it was guided at €895,000.

Also going over its guide, in both same price and geographical hinterland was 6 Berkley, a six-bed 3,700 sq ft home on large grounds (by the Irish Guide Dogs): it made €900,000, via Malcolm Tyrrell of Cohalan Downing, having guided at €850,000.

Going in the opposite direction was Willowmeade, a four-bed of 2,175 sq ft on the Model Farm Road, with Cohalan Downing, which had launched at €740,000, and sold late in 2108 for €715,000.

And, just to prove the unpredictability of it all sometimes, on the city end of the Model Farm Road, Cohalan Downing also sold a more modest three-bed semi-d at 24 Woodlawn: it had a guide of €360k and made €406,000.

That agency alone had over two dozen sales at or over the €500,000 mark (and that’s excluding the new sales at Botanika, several at €850,000) in Cork city and county.

In one of the Model Farm Road’s best pitches, Sherry FitzGerald sold the modern Millcove House for €930,000, to a buyer who is going to do huge further work to it, and also pretty much sold by Ann O’Mahony of Sherry FitzGerald for its site value was Sans Souci, a dated bungalow on the main Douglas Road: it had 0.3 of an acre, and made €765,000.

Similarly, in outer Douglas, Sherry FitzGerald sold a dated 1960s detached home, Poulgorm, on Maryborough Hill, for €675,000, again almost for site value.

(Coincidentally, a seaside gem by the real Poulgorm, Atlantic House, which was transported there after the 1903 Cork Exhibition, facing Roches Point, resold off-market in 2018 for €750,000, having made €680,000 via Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan in 2016.)

A scan of Sherry FitzGerald city office’s 2018 deals shows over a dozen homes making between €600k and €1m (most of Cork’s €1m-plus sales appear on p4-5).

A conventional refrain from many long-established agents was that the mid- to upper- market dragged across Cork during 2018, much of it down to Central Bank lending restriction to traders-up, needing 20% savings, vs 10% for first- time buyers on a mortgage).

The figure of over 5,300 sales by mid-December at least show movement, and in fact quite a deal of it. The other observation was that there was a very substantial supply of mid- to upper-level new homes, which sucked many dozens of buyers away from the second-hand market.

Such schemes included Botanika, Earls Well, Rosefield, Steeplewoods, and Aylesbury (the bigger Aylesbury detacheds in Ballintemple are expecting first sales in early 2019) and some infill in the likes of Beaumont started to sate demand.

As ever, the long-established suburban Cork locations like Blackrock, Rochestown/Douglas and western suburbs (as well as, further afield, West Cork) provided the steady stream of sales, but there were a few swift-selling outliers.

In Ballycotton, agents Hegarty Properties sold the contemporary Innisfree on the Church Road in jig time, for a recorded €825,000. Ballycotton also found favour with TV’s Vanessa Feltz, buying a 2,700 sq ft modern home with sea views for at a more modest €475,000 via Sherry FitzGerald O’Donovan.

Back in the city, an outlier was Rathcoola, a cracker of a 1912-built home, which went to market on the city end of the Boreenmanna Road in April guiding €920,000.

If the location was Blackrock, or even Douglas Road, it would have soared over the €1m mark, but nonetheless agent Kevin Barry got an exceptional €950,000 for Rathcoola, in super-fast time too. It was one of the city’s nicest homes, and little surprise that it had been in the same family’s hands for 55 years.

While Cork’s Blackrock continued to hold pre-eminence among better-heeled home hunters, with at least 18 sales over €500,000, nothing topped €1.5m (Ardnagreena, see previous pages) and quite a few offered properties in the €1m-€2.5m price bracket stayed unsold by this year’s end.

Among the movers were Eskbank, on the Old Blackrock Road, at €845k via Cohalan Downing, and the gorgeous, period Riverside, on Castle Road, getting €875,000 via Michael O’Donovan of Savills. Savills’

Mr O’Donovan also sold the detached Kincraigie, in Menloe Gardens, also for €875k, and it is likely to see major further reinvestment.

Even excluding their new-build mid- to upper-level sales, Savills recorded 29 second-hand house deals over 500k in Cork this year.

Close to Riverside, agent Tim Sullivan has another Castle Road cracker, Bayswater, likely to feature in here next year, stillll inching through the paperwork.

In Douglas, Mr Sullivan got an even €800k for Colville, Hettyfield, while an Edwardian semi-d, Ardmore on the Blackrock Road, went for sale in October, sellingquickley for close to its ask of €760k.

A New Year’s wish for 2019’s vendors?

Ask (the right price) and you shall receive.

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