The strength of sterling combined with soaring British property prices is driving the trend at the lower end of the Irish property market, property group, Real Estate Alliance (REA) said.
And property owners in scenic or coastal areas along the western seaboard, in Kerry, Cork, or in the commuter counties such as Meath and Kildare, are set to benefit most, said REA chief executive Philip Farrell.
He was speaking at the release of findings of a survey of REA’s members, including auctioneers and estate agents, which shows enquiries from UK-based purchasers about Irish property sales have increased significantly in the past two months — up 13% on average to agents outside of Dublin.
There has been a corresponding 25% annual increase in enquiries about REA properties listed on top UK site rightmove.co.uk.
Mr Farrell described the prospective buyers as “serious” and said he is confident they will translate into sales.
“The average UK home now costs €236,635 whereas in Ireland it is close to €180,000, and the strength of sterling is magnifying this.
“UK buyer interest is manifesting itself differently to the existing Irish market in a number of ways, with big surges in interest in many undervalued rural counties and also scenic and coastal locations.
“This presents many vendors with the opportunity of achieving better prices due to interest outside of the normal marketplace. Rural properties in the UK cost an average of €67,000 more than urban properties — quite the opposite of the Irish market. UK buyers are being priced out of rural properties in their own country, so for many their only chance of an ‘escape to the country’ is a move to our country.
“We are also seeing a marked upsurge in UK interest in large properties worth over €700,000 in commuter counties such as Meath and Kildare. We are also seeing interest from UK investors who are priced out of their own market and feel that they have reached the top of their curve and are looking for capital growth and yield in Ireland.”
The REA survey found that West Cork is attracting above average interest from the UK market, with REA Celtic Properties in Bantry reporting a 50% increase in UK-based enquiries alone.
Celtic Properties’s John O’Neill, said he is confident the trend will continue throughout the year.
“For example, I had a lot of English interest in a property in Ahakista for €100,000 — it’s in appalling condition.
“It was on open viewing for two hours on January 10 and a English family, and an English lady, came over to view it especially. It was on open viewing again on January 24 and another English family came to view it. That is unheard of really — that we would have this level of interest from that market at this time of the year.”
Interest is coming from a cross-section of buyers, he said, with older couples looking to trade down, and families looking for holiday homes with a view to permanency later on.
And he said young Irish people who emigrated during the recession are now buying property here, some as an investment, but others with a view to returning.
He said UK interest at the lower end of the market — properties between €150,000-€200,000 — should translate into the trophy property market later in the year.
Mr Farrell said people with property to sell here could cash in on the mini-boom by registering for REA’s London Property Exhibition in the Millennium Gloucester Hotel and Conference Centre in central London on Saturday March 21.
Details on how to register are at realestatealliance.ie.