The phenomenon of people moving into rural locations was a marked trend of the Pandemic years, as remote working went from being a tentative experiment to a proven success. All over the country, auctioneers were reporting extraordinary levels of demand for dwellings in rural locations of all types.
In the latest report on house prices from IPAV published last month, some of the biggest price increases were for properties in the rural locations of Wexford, Clare, Mayo and Donegal. The category with the biggest price increase was the four-bedroom house. This is the one that one would most associate with a move out of town and/or a move towards working from home so the phenomenon of ‘rural drift’ may be a factor in those statistics.
Now that normality is firmly re-establishing itself, one of the big questions is whether or not this will be a permanent trend? Are today’s new-home seekers looking to live amidst trees, sheep and cows rather than lamp posts and similar semi-d’s? IPAV CEO Pat Davitt, for one, is not so sure:
“I think that those who choose to move into the country are generally those who have connections with the country,” says Pat Davitt. “I don’t think that people have suddenly awoken one day and said, ‘I’m fed up living in Cork City, I think I’ll move to West Kerry’ If someone is making such a move, they’ll tend to be making the move for a reason and the reason mightn’t necessarily be working from home.
"It could be a case of a number of elements coming together at a given time and working from home could be one of those elements... If someone doesn’t have a link with the place they’re moving to, then it generally doesn’t happen. For those that have a general plan or a hankering for a move to the country, I think that will continue to happen, but connectivity will always be a pre-requisite.”
Elizabeth Hegarty, Associate Director of Savills Cork Residential, finds that the main Covid-era trend she has noticed with new homeowner requirements is that buyers are looking for an extra room that can be a home office, rather than moving to the country.
“Since Covid hit, we saw quite quickly a rapid increase in people looking to buy,” says Elizabeth. “There were probably two reasons for that – one was the fact that rents were high and the second was that people were saving more money.”
At the same time, she adds, demand increased and supply dwindled to a trickle as Lockdowns severely curtailed building activity. This, in turn, has led to a widening of requirements from buyers.
“There’s been a seismic shift in criteria for certain specific buyers,” notes Elizabeth. “The requirement to get the four-bedroom house over the three-bedroom house in order to get the home office has become a very common request,” she says. “That’s a huge one. The commute hasn’t been as important because people are now either working from home or on a more flexible arrangement.”
At the same time, many of those in the property business are seeing a greater number of more modest-sized developments away from the cities rather than large-scale satellite-town developments.
“We had a very busy start to the year,” says Paul Hannon, Director of Sherry Fitzgerald New Homes. “You’re definitely seeing more new schemes opening up – the trend is with smaller developers opening smaller schemes in locations outside the city suburbs, such as Bandon, Mallow, Coachford... that’s the change this time, as opposed to just big schemes like Heathfield in Ballincollig or Ballinglanna in Glanmire.”