A test of market exuberance

Renovated, opened-up semi-d in Cork’s Bishopstown is bullishly priced at €550,00, says Tommy Barker.

THERE’S been such a shortage of quality trading-up housing stock in Cork City’s suburbs that asking prices have regularly been surpassed. This has been common in Dublin for over a year, and Cork’s now followed suit.

Were asking prices deliberately set too low to garner interest? Or, was it just caution among vendors and agents, as the market began recovery? A case of ‘let’s not get carried away?’

Whether or which, there’s no such suspicion of cautious undervaluing regarding No 22, Highfield Lawn; Sherry FitzGerald are assertively asking for €550,000 for this four-bed semi-d.

Phew, ’that seems strong,’ and ‘a high enough hope for a semi,’ was a fairly widespread reaction among price watchers, as this family home par excellence went to market in the past week, with busy open viewings lined up for Wednesday last.

“It’s well worth the money,” chorus agents Ann O’Mahony and Johnny O’Flynn, pinning their colours to the mast and to the metaphorical sale board; the vendors bought at market peak seven or eight years ago, and they then undertook a full make-over, boosting it in size to 2,100 sq ft, opening up the ground-floor, and extending overhead, as well, all with a deft hand.

The location, just off the Model Farm Road, justified the family’s expenditure. It’s near the rear entrance to the sprawling Cork University Hospital medical campus, which employs thousands, as well as being near schools, University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology, technology parks and County Hall.

It’s a perennially popular setting with families, from rearing smallies right up to the latter, college-going years.

Right now, there’s a gust of new, youthful energy blowing through Highfield Lawn, a mid-20th century estate in the city’s western suburbs, which has clear signs of renewal.

Tradesmen’s vans are busy up and down the road and neighbouring parks, rolling back the years — with a few extensions and refurbs on the go. A few more have just had the wrap-around insulation treatments for energy saving, so there’s a visible lift, on several fronts. Even along this row (which leads to the up-market 1990s Court Cairn scheme) there have been several significant upgrades of semis, which, in their original state, would perhaps have averaged 1,100 sq ft.

Several finished jobs are pretty swanky, and No 22 can hold its head up with the best of them.

It’s had a two-storey extension grafted onto the back, with a sliver of extra space to the side; there’s definitely more going on, and added on, than you’d suspect from first, front-facade impressions.

Simply, it’s got a great ground-floor layout, with the left-hand side opened up, so that the two original reception rooms now interconnect, front-to-back, over 22’ deep.

But that pales compared to the sheer floor area (and quality) of the kitchen/dining extension, which is 25’ wide across the whole rear of the house, and about 15’ deep, with a bit of extra girth and tucked-away space, and with changing floor finishes and side access to a utility room.

All walls are freshly painted white (the vendors have recently departed, leaving some funkily-coloured furniture for a visual lift) and the floors behind by the kitchen are in a pale marble.

As a result, this very open and very useful area gets a good deal more light than you’d expect in the mid-section, thanks to its double aspect.

There’s a flow further afield, via French doors by the dining table, outdoors to a big expanse of decking, with enough room for a pattern dance, should you so wish. There’s more than enough space for tables and chairs here, even though the aspect is generally northerly. The good news is there’s plenty of garden left over, after the extension and decking, for children to play, with a raised playhouse in a sunny spot by the back boundary.

Handily, there’s access along the side, to the back garden from No 22’s front, which is gravelled and graced with a neat entry porch that has sandblasted-glass side panels. Back inside, the ground-floor has a slender play room/den to the right, and there’s a guest WC under the stairs, with LED lighting up the stairwell.

Upstairs, it’s a very different house again to what it was originally, so now it has two en-suite bathrooms among its four bedrooms, while the main family bathroom has a double shower, plus a redone, cast-iron, roll-top bath for long soaks.

Sanitary ware and tiling are all high-end, and sections of the house have been wired for sound, with roof-mounted speakers.

The house is in walk-in condition, freshly repainted inside and out, and the kitchen’s got granite tops, quality appliances and a mauve-coloured Rangemaster cooker at its core.

VERDICT: Will it make the money? It’s a walk-in, walk-around buy and there’s little as good, right now, in the western suburbs for pent-up demand.

Bishopstown, Cork, €550,000

Sq m 197 (2,120 sq ft)

Bedrooms: 4

Bathrooms: 4

BER Rating: C1

Best Feature: Quality throughout


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