Home sweet country home

Tommy Barker says activity in country houses is low key.

THE Irish country house market has had a quiet first half in 2005 - especially on the Munster scene.

That’s according to country property specialists Michael H. Daniels who said that while there was a good level of purchasers looking for prime properties, this year, activity levels and ‘done deals’ were down.

And, he adds, another distinctive feature is the strength of private or off-market sales in the niche country sector.

“There’s a ready supply of well-funded purchasers in the market, seeking a country house in the Munster region which is popular with national and overseas buyers alike. Returning Irish ex-pats, originally from other parts of the country, are also choosing Munster for the quality of life and ease of access that the region now offers, through upgraded communication and technology infrastructures and good physical access,” he states.

The discernibly lower levels of activity in the lower half of the country is attributable “to a continuing dearth of prime property coming to the market, together with ambitious pricing which has seen properties taking longer to sell,” he states.

And, a continuing feature of the market, especially in Munster, is that the private rather than the open market is driving the sector: many of the big house properties publicly on the market in the region remain unsold months after going up for sale, perhaps reflecting over-ambitious price guides.

This contrasts with areas to the east, especially on the Dublin catchment periphery, such as south Kilkenny where the opposite is very much in evidence.

Daniels notes heightened activity there in recent weeks citing three sales along the river Nore with Coolmore House, Thomastown in Kilkenny fetching up to 6.5 million, Belmore House, also in Thomastown making €5 million and Annamult House, Bennetsbridge making over €2 million.

“It is interesting that in 2005 there has yet to be a significant country house sale that was advertised to the open market in counties Cork and Waterford, although there have been a number of multi-million euro coastal conversion properties in Ardmore, Kinsale and Baltimore launched to the market earlier this year,” claims Mr Daniels.

His firm this year sold Copperfield House, Mallow and Rowley House, Rathbarry near Clonakilty, each believed to have made around €1 million. Other recent sales of Cork properties which went up for sale last year (or before) include the late Noel Reading’s home in Ardfield Clonakilty, making €1m with Henry O’Leary Property Partners, as well as Brookville House on 20 acres near Glanmire, fetching over €1.5m with Hamilton Osborne King, along with Lissarda House, between Cork and Macroom, making close to its €1.5m guide, also with HOK.

Assessing price inflation in the country market is difficult because of the nature of the market, says Mr Daniels, noting “prime properties in top locations will continue to attract premium prices.”

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