Brexit worries put a dent in confidence in country homes

Looking back at 2017, Michael H Daniels says our nearest neighbour’s trauma is cooling the market here, and is making the future a lot harder to predict    

Brexit worries put a dent in confidence in country homes

The year was predictably dominated by the Brexit phase one negotiations (also known as death by one thousand cuts), with Ireland very much front and centre.

Burgeoning into all-out political trauma as the year closed, it took diplomatic brinkmanship to another level with the DUP unexpectedly in the box seats.

With its traditionally high share of foreign buyers, the Country House market always was going to be vulnerable to the Brexit decision, and the jitters felt in the rural community, caused by a possible hard exit bringing with it the devastating affects of export tariffs and a hard border with the North.

The near chaos that sometimes followed the Brexit negotiations all year has undoubtedly damaged confidence, especially in the super-prime country estate sector, perhaps even more so than the 20% loss in value of sterling against the euro.

In macroeconomic terms, Trump’s sabre-rattling and directly naming Ireland in his push to repatriate US global corporations through tax measures did nothing for confidence either.

Elections in Holland, France, Germany and Italy were expected to test the populist resentment of globalisation and of economic austerity. In the event, these worries passed, excepting Austria and Germany lurching to the right with Angela Merkel as well as Theresa May receiving major electoral slaps to the face.

However, in overall terms, the country market has seen higher levels of activity than 2016, but prices have suffered when compared to those taking place in Dublin and Cork, where supply shortages have driven double digit growth percentages.

Sales activity has been most prominent in the mid ranges with few properties reaching the €1m mark, even in the traditional hotspots of Kinsale and West Cork where The Rectory, Glandore, Creagh Glebe, Skibbereen, and La Finca, Goleen, surpassed this figure.

Creagh Glebe, Skibbereen.
Creagh Glebe, Skibbereen.

In Tipperary, both Glebe House in Carrick on Suir, and Derrycastle House, Ballina, made in excess of €1m, while in Limerick and Clare, properties in Cratloe and Adare Manor went close. In Kerry, Drimna Lodge in Sneem was believed to have made close to the mark.

Once again, 2017 produced slow sales activity in the super-prime market nationally. Westport House, Co Mayo, is believed to have made in the region of €5.50m, while Landenstown and Straffan Lodge both in Kildare in the order of €4.6m and €3.4m respectively.

However an unexpected surprise was the remarkable comeback in popularity of stud properties within one hour of the capital. Demonstrating the good health of the bloodstock sector, Ballymacoll Stud, Co Meath, (300 acres) was the top country sale of the year making €8.15m with Loughtown Stud, Co Kildare (170 acres) €3.3 m, Ballinteskin Stud, Co Wicklow €2.5 m (120 acres) and Galtrim Estate, Co Meath (110 acres) €2.25m.

The year saw a number of prime entrants to the market nationally. One of the country’s most beautiful houses, Castletowncox, located on the Tipperary / Kilkenny border was launched to the market in July at €17.50 million with 500 acres.

Luggala, Co Wicklow came to the market at €28m with 5,000 aces, Harristown, Kildare at €25m on 750 acres and Knockdrin, Co Westmeath with 1100 acres at €13.50m.

Closer to home, Rocketts Castle in Co Waterford with 250 acres was offered at €6m.

It is believed that a deal may be in the offing at Lisselan, Clonakilty, while it is noteworthy that both Glin Castle, Co Limerick, and Michael Flatley’s Castlehyde, Fermoy, failed to attract buyers and were withdrawn from the open market.

Westport House.
Westport House.

Looking forward to 2018, the only predictable thing in these troubled times is the unpredictability of it all.

The market will certainly not benefit from falling London property prices for the first time since 2009, coupled with the first UK interest rate rise in a decade.

Threats to our low corporate tax status may begin to kick in with the double-headed thrust from Europe and Trump.

Ironically, the UK exit from the EU will rob us of the staunchest ally of our right to offer a low corporate tax regime.

Add to the mix a very unstable nuclear situation in Korea, perhaps it is the perfect time to move out to the country and, to make sure that there’s no decent broadband available.

Michael Daniels SCSI and RICS is principal of Michael H Daniels & Co, country property specialists based in Fermoy

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