Remote work choices allow new home buyers greater flexibility

Tommy Barker, Property Editor, looks at new patterns emerging in the Irish new homes market
Remote work choices allow new home buyers greater flexibility

According to one survey, some 85% of registered possibly buyers still intend to pursue home ownerships, despite any and all impacts of the pandemic to date.

The past 18 months of a global health pandemic have hit us on just about every front, and — apart from the toll on personal and economic health — it has been a game-changer for where we live and for where we work.

In lots of cases, thanks to COVID-19, where we live has been where we work: what's left to see is how long-term its change will prove to be.

A year ago, after the pandemic had its first broad swipe, the ‘death of the office’ was widely predicted.

Now, with rapidly-advancing vaccine levels and greater awareness of how the virus spreads and can be moderated, it seems there’ll be a greater return to office occupancy by this year’s end than might have been expected not so long ago, virulent and vaccine-resistant variations notwithstanding.

It’s all sort of a pendulum swing, but what’s certain is that things have changed, it’s just how deep the changes go that will need the further passage of time to establish, where the balance of hybrid working finds its overall equilibrium.

Statistics from builders and estate agents handling the sale of new homes show absolutely no let-up in demand for houses, and in most locations, sales are ahead of delivery, with registered buyers lined up via websites for phased releases, and with prices inching up, rather than ramping up, thankfully, although rising materials prices due to Covid-19 and Brexit may add a few percentage points to prices by this year’s end.

Head of New Homes sales in Munster for Sherry FitzGerald, Paul Hannon, says that strong purchaser sentiment and resilience of the structural pent-up demand looks like continuing into the second half of 2021, noting that with mortgages generally cheaper than rents for willing and qualifying buyers “home-ownership makes much more sense.” 

Home hunters typically favour new builds, due to incentives like the Help to Buy Scheme, and lower running costs of freshly minted, out-of-the-box homes thanks to NZEB regulations which also, inter alia, are kinder to both the planet and the pocket, due to a lower demand on carbon fuels.

While accepting that new initiatives such as the ‘Homes for All’ Shared Equity and other pro-‘affordable’ buyer incentives, allied to the popular and proven Help to Buy scheme, drive demand rather than adding to supply, the market continues to evolve, however slowly.

Research by Sherry FitzGerald shows that 85% of registered possibly buyers still intend to pursue home ownerships, despite any and all impacts of the pandemic to date: interestingly too, 20% of home buyers have changed their parameters as to where they'd like to live, as a result of the pandemic.

However, at this stage, it’s pretty much well documented how we expect our homes to be all things to all men, to all women, and to children too.

Dermot Bannon might be going on about ‘Small Spaces,’ but the truth is we need small spaces plus large ones, open plan plus private areas, a room or a corner of one for Zoom calls: we need adaptability, and flexible spaces too.

We need good data and broadband speeds, and storage spaces too for physical accoutrements.

A premium surely is put on accessible outdoors space for fun, for games, for head-clearing and fore a bit of veg or herb growing: an apartment with a miniscule balcony is generally not a place to put down roots, physical green ones, or metaphorical ones either.

Longer-term, and especially for younger occupants, apartment dwellers need regular ‘potting on’ to larger, more nourishing spaces.

Statistics from builders and estate agents handling the sale of new homes show absolutely no let-up in demand for houses.
Statistics from builders and estate agents handling the sale of new homes show absolutely no let-up in demand for houses.

First-time buyers driving majority of new home sales

 Nationwide, it’s reckoned that First Time Buyers (FTB’s) are driving 75% of all new homes sales, and research by Sherry FitzGerald also shows median prices at €387,000.

Some 35% of sales were for new builds of less that €360,000, nationally; a further 40% were for new homes from €360,000 to €500k, and 25% of sales were at the €500k+ level.

As is widely reported already, the pandemic has curtailed our day-to-day activities so much that savings levels have ratcheted up overall as a nation (allowing for the divide between those most impacted by the pandemic, e.g. in hospitality sectors).

Sherry Fitz’s Paul Hannon says consumer confidence remains high, and details that their profile of buyers in Cork “is generally people employed in IT, ICT, pharma FDI companies and/or Civil Servant type jobs who have been relatively unaffected by the COVD-19 economic issues.”

 It’s likely that over 400 new homes sales have taken place in the greater Cork area already in the first half of this year, despite all the obvious impediments, with two of the larger agents Savills and Sherry Fitz alone reporting over 300 sales between them.

Savills estate agent Elizabeth Hegarty says they’ve experienced a huge volume of people looking to secure a new home, and have registered over 1,700 people on their database looking to buy a home so far this year.

“While demand is at an all-time high, stock levels are very low as a result of the impact COVID-19 has had on construction and housing completions. Purchasers are very eager to secure a home and launches are not happening as frequently as a result of the time lost in construction due to the mandatory site closures,” she notes.

Nationwide, it’s reckoned that First Time Buyers (FTB’s) are driving 75% of all new homes sales, and research by Sherry FitzGerald also shows median prices at €387,000.
Nationwide, it’s reckoned that First Time Buyers (FTB’s) are driving 75% of all new homes sales, and research by Sherry FitzGerald also shows median prices at €387,000.

Ms Hegarty says this month’s ESRI report (see separate story here) “very much states what we are seeing on the ground, on a daily basis."

"The lack of supply is resulting in frustration in the market with purchasers looking to secure a new build. This supply is likely to take some time to recover with completion times taking longer than usual as a result as a result of site closures,” she states, adding that builders also face additional challenges with increasing costs of materials and delays in the supply chain as a result of Brexit and COVID-19.

Home-hunters – no more so than estate agents and builders/developers — hope that the enhanced Help to Buy initiative which is worth up to a maximum of €30,000 and which was extended last year and which is now due to expire in December 2021, would ask Government to signal its longer-term intention on the measure, to obviate panic buying at each year's notional expiry deadline.

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