Saying goodbye to the family home

Tommy Barker hears vendors sing praises of life in Ardmanning Avenue, where opera sensation Cara O’Sullivan lorded it
Saying goodbye to the family home

    The Lough, Cork City
  • €287,777
  • Size: 94 sq m (1,050 sq ft)
  • Bedrooms: 3
  • Bathrooms: 1
  • BER: N/A

Tommy Barker hears vendors sing praises of life in Ardmanning Avenue, where opera sensation Cara O’Sullivan lorded it

Childhood friends Cara O’Sullivan and Orla O’Callaghan
Childhood friends Cara O’Sullivan and Orla O’Callaghan

Selling the family home, after the passing of a generation, can often be a wrench, and perhaps even more so when the property is full of happy memories.

It can be harder still, though, if you and any or all siblings are all living overseas: selling ‘the house; is the cutting of another family tie to home, birthplace, to hometown.

Home-leaving, again?

Faced with the prospect of selling 5 Ardmanning Avenue, within a swan’s waddle of The Lough wildfowl reserve in Cork city, though, was a necessary step that ‘daughter of the house’ Orla O’Callaghan has accepted with some gusto, mainly for professional reasons — selling property in Maryland in the US as a ‘realtor’ is how she makes a good living.

Pride in the property, and the neighbourhood and the love of good childhood friends (like internationally renowned Cork soprano Cara O’Sullivan who grew up at 17 Armanning Avenue) also played a part, though.

Coming to market this week, the mid 1900s mid-terraced home No 5 is once more smart as a new pin, gleaming and renewed, good enough to simply move straight on into, with a new kitchen, new bathroom — thankfully with the original deep cast iron bath kept and just re-enamaled, like new), new floors, tiling and carpets, and more.

It’s ready then too, in some time to come, to be enhanced further, in its next, appreciative, owners’ decades of occupation. Agent Jeremy Murphy guide at €287,777: 7 was Orla’s Dad Barry’s lucky number. The Price Register show the most recent sale being No 22, at €245,000 back in 2017, while the vastly extended No 17 made €275,000 back in 2013.

Three-bedroomed, and original sized at c 1,150 sq ft, No 5 was a happy, buzzy family home to Finbarr (Barry), O’Callaghan, a builder whose work spanned things like re-roofing churches like St Vincents and working on period homes, and to his wife Theresa (nee O’Neill), and to their son Victor, and daughter Orla. The couple are now deceased, and their two adult ‘children’ are living not five minutes away from one another in Maryland USA, having gone Stateside decades’ ago.

Under her professional sales ‘hat,’ Orla O’Callaghan has been awarded a REMAX Lifetime Achievement Award, meaning she has sold over 1,000 properties, some of which made millions of dollars when transacted, at fees/commissions of 4%-6%. That’s a level Irish auctioneers could barely hope to dream of, while her website is enhanced with the occasional green shamrock, for the luck of the Irish!

However, in the States, the agents also cover all costs, signs, photography, even ‘staging’, and it’s the buyer who pays the commission, which is split between buyers’ and sellers’ respective agents... nice work if you can get it: “certainly, you can make a decent living if you have volume and market share,” says Orla, who adds that guide prices aren’t normally given either.

In her hometown of Cork, she’s taken on city-based estate agent Jeremy Murphy as she says he impressed her with his immediate follow-ups to her preliminary inquiries about selling.

They both agreed it would be in the house sale’s favour to spend a bit of time, money and effort in getting the house ready to show its very best face.

Having brought brother Victor on board with the decision, Orla engaged the services of Frances Murphy and Mary Shannon of MnF House Staging and Decluttering: between MnF and Orla’s cousin Brian O’Callaghan of OCal Construction, his wife Bridget and their son Rob, No 5 began to re-emerge as a bit of a new-born, albeit one with key original quality features (pantry/presses, cast iron bath, curved stairs handrail like a swan’s neck, original hall floor tiling etc) kept in situ.

“The coordinated effort to bring 5 Ardmanning back to life has been nothing short of miraculous,” says ‘realtor’ Orla in a lengthy, warm, memory-filled e-mail from the States, having visited Cork pre-Christmas to finalise the sale, and next life chapter for No 5 after her parents’ passing in recent years.

She recalls walks around the Lough, feeding the swans, being dragged along by an Irish setter name Truce; visits to the Hawthorn bar when they were older; her mother Theresa’s pride in home, home economics, fabrics and fashion (she ran a business, Styline, on the Grand Parade until children arrived), the occasional lodger whose rent helped pay for hair-dos, clothes and a good car, and a permanent, community of good neighbours, on hand on Ardmanning Avenue.

And, not untypically, No 5 was where much community activity took place, en masse, even if the ‘good’ front room, with its bay window, was only unlocked for the months of December and January!

“Cara O’Sullivan, our own Cork soprano, grew up at number 17, and she was our shining light on the avenue. We had great sing-songs at number 5 and there was always a party going, a card game, a little gambling and lots of shouting at the matches on television. There was also music and singing in the house and my dad had a fabulous voice and was an amazing tenor. Over the years he sang songs that Cara didn’t know but she loved the lyrics. He taught her, ‘Like a Golden Dream’, and many others,” recalls Orla.

A few years ago, she hosted the same singer (who’s currently unwell) during part of a six week visit Cara made to the States, inveigling her to burst into song outside the White House, singing ‘Oh Holy Night’, in the cold, and then after singing warmly in the heat of Trump Tower too.

“Boy, oh boy, did she knock it out of the park and make Cork proud that day. Both videos have had thousands of views and comments on Facebook and you could hear a pin drop in Trump Tower. People sitting in the lobby whipped out their iphones and took videos. They knew they were in the presence of greatness.”

A minute’s walk from the SuperValu by The Lough, No 5 Ardmanning Avenue goes on view this month with Jeremy Murphy Associates, who expect it to be busy, with a good cross section of interest, from FTBs to traders-down and traders-in, as well as, quite possibly, investors.

While there’s still discretionary work to do (eg, optional replacement of the hardwood windows and doors, Orla says: “I love that 5 Ardmanning is now shining as a reborn gem on the Avenue and only wish my mum and dad had let us do this, oh so many years ago so they could have enjoyed it.” And, after her visit back to Cork over the run-up to Christmas, she recalls the family tradition for the Big Day of putting the turkey (not a goose from The Lough!) in the oven and then visiting ‘the relations’ in St Finbarr’s Cemetary to say a few prayers.

“Now mum and dad are buried there too, and mum was great on picking real estate. She bought the graves years ago and is on the main avenue going into Saint Finbarr’s. She wanted to be “seen” and I suppose knowing we were living here in the States, not forgotten.”

VERDICT: Irish decency meets US ‘realtor’ sensibility.

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