Estate agents cut jobs as property prices decline

CLEAR evidence the housing crisis is hitting hard has started to emerge in various parts of the country.

Apart from falling house prices and the threat of a 20,000 job losses in construction this year estate agents are starting to feel the strain.

According to the PA news agency one of the busiest estate agents in the north-west, Franklins, has shut a sales office and laid off staff in Buncrana.

Industry chiefs attempted to play down effects of the downturn insisting the strength of the euro was also to blame.

However the sector lost 20,000 jobs last year and a further 20,000 are projected to go in 2008 as the market is hit with thousands of unsold homes and falling demand.

Housing completions could be as low as 45,000 against 78,000 in 2007.

That figure was a sharp fall from a record 93,500 completions in 2006 as the market peaked.

At the height of the boom in early 2007, Franklins was selling more than 60 homes a month in Donegal.

That has dropped to 20 as buyers demand value.

Three other agencies in the county are feeling the pinch and are reported to have dramatically scaled back their business or moved to new areas to drum up sales.

Advisors at Franklins are urging clients to drop asking prices by as much as 24% if they are serious about selling.

The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers warned asking prices had to be realistic.

“I would not be surprised if there are unrealistic prices being asked from vendors, that their houses are sticking on the market,” chief executive Fintan McNamara said.

“Sales are taking place but where they are holding out for unrealistic high prices, they are not,” he said.

According to the latest Permanent TSB/ESRI survey house, released earlier this month, prices fell 2.2% in the first quarter of the year and in the 12 months to April they dropped 8.9%.

Five Franklins’ staff have been laid off with the closure of the Buncrana branch due to the downturn in business.

Brendan McGee, director of the firm, said that the Inishowen Peninsula was worst affected with a huge drop in northern buyers.

“This is a big thing, there’s a lot of agents out there who continue to stick to their guns. But we have an honest appraisal of what things need to be reduced by,” he said.

“We have monitored it very closely and it’s a fact that only properties being reduced by somewhere between 15%-24% are the ones that are selling.”


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