Movers and shakers in a slow(er) year

Despite a demographic bulge in housing demand, and demand and supply imbalance, house sales dipped in 2017, says Tommy Barker.

Derrycastle House, in 20 acres at Ballina, Co Tipperary, sold by Christy O'Connor Jnr, made over €1.6m.

T’S not quite a ‘downer,’ but the property year just now wrapping was down, down, down, on a number of fronts, even if official statistics might superficially indicate otherwise.

House prices are still rising (but there’s evidence of a slowdown of pace of increase, thankfully) and rents might be up at ridiculous, boom-time and beyond levels.

But, it’s notable that despite the demographic bulge in housing demand, and the imbalance between demand and supply, that the number of house sales actually dipped in 2017, for the first time since 2011, significantly with fewer transactions visible at the end of this year.

And, also down was the number of notable, big headline-making sales for big cash — at least, outside of the Dublin area, where the top house sale was the high-profile Gorse Hill in Killiney, at €9.5m with Knight Frank and Sherry FitzGerald: it will look familiar to one and all from repeated TV news exposure, as the former home of solicitor Brian O’Donnell who’d fought to keep it from receivers, after amassing debts of €70m.

The buyer’s identity isn’t yet known.

At least five Dublin homes topped €5m during 2017, and for those who fear we are headed back to frothy Tiger times, at least in the capital, well, the sale of a Ballsbridge 3,800 sq ft penthouse apartment for €6.5m to an ex-pat buyer will add fuel to that simming suspicion.

The purchase was off-plan in the 217-unit Lansdowne Place development by Chartered Land, where off-plan sales topped €100m in 2017, with completion by 2019, to include €24 multi-million penthouses.

Top country house sale was the ‘Dunne Deal,’ of Ballymacoll Stud in Meath on 300 acres, sold by Willie Coonan and Knight Frank to Frank Dunne of the Irish retail Dunne dynasty who has another stud farm alongside.

Top Munster city seller for 2017 appears to be the lovely Georgian villa Kilcoran, on 1.6 acres on Limerick’s North Circular Road.

A fine home, with a top address, it came for sale in late 2016 with Ailbhe O’Malley of Sherry FitzGerald with a €1.75 million price tag and sold for a reported €2.3 million.

Also exceeding its €795k asking price for a local county price leader was Waterford’s period Leoville House on the Dunmore Road, selling via RE/Max for €970,000.

Not even a dozen Cork city and country houses topped €1m in 2017, and the top sales were two in the city at €1.5m, and that’s down both in terms of top prices on the preceding year (when a handful made in excess of €2m,) and in volume/numbers.

In fact, in 2016, the Cork market saw 5,640 sales, a level to which it had risen steadily, every year since 2011’s lowly 2,103 tally of transactions.

However, the out-turn for 12 months in 2017 was 5,495 by this week, with traditionally just a few dozen sales in the last few weeks of chilly December.

In the on-going ‘Tale of Two Cities,” Dublin’s house sales market according to the Price Register stood at 46,885 sales by late December, and down from 49,551 in 2016 (yet up from a meagre 18,396 back in 2011.)

Seeing as how the New Homes market picked up a gear in 2017, the real marked decline in activity was in second hand stock.

Agents active in the Munster market put the drop down to less-than-expected volumes of second hand homes coming up for sale (rather than just not selling), in just about every segment of the market, from starters out, to traders up, to the big, knock-out mansions.

“We waited for first half of the year for things to get into gear, and by summer it was evident it wasn’t going to happen, the stock just never came to the market,” say Ann O’Mahony and Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald.

The Rectory, Glandore.

Just why there wasn’t a continuation of the 2016 pace of recovery isn’t clear, though. Trump, Brexit and economic uncertainty certainly played a part: if you were nervous about the sector upon which your job or employment sector depended, you might indeed have decided now wasn’t the best of times to consider trading up and extending the mortgage, despite all the other positive economic indicators.

There’s a natural sense of caution, perhaps, after what the economy and Irish society went through post the 2008-crash, and the loss of a decade, and a scattered diaspora which is only now inchng its way back to Irish shores and to local housing markets.

After a steady, well-paced 2016, and sensible Central Bank lending restrictions, nobody expected 2017 to be too frothy, despite the graphs on house prices showing an upward trajectory continuing. Similarly, given the pace of economic recovery and employment boost, it could have reasonably been expected that volumes of sales would have continued to jump up, but they just didn’t.

Top house sellers in Cork city during 2017 were both at the €1.5 million mark, and, again, both were in the Blackrock hinterland. They included Sherwood, the family home of the late Peter Barry and his wife Margaret, selling for €1.535m via agent John D Sullivan.

Behind, members of the Barry clan sold two individual house sites for over €500,000 each, via agent Dennis Guerin of Frank V Murphy & Co, and then also sold off-market for c €1.4 million was another home by Deirdre and Conor Clune, which has yet to surface on the Price Register.

Making the Register in smart, jig-time via Sherry FitzGerald was the contemporised period home Mosely Villa on the Blackrock Road in Ballintemple, fetching an even €1.5m from determined bidders Dan and Linda Kiely, who sold their Voxpro company during 2017 for a remarkable €150 million, and keeping Cork’s Blackrock at the top of the des-res wishlist locations for the well-heeled.

Making the real market stir in 2017 was the long-anticipated Botanika scheme of 31 new builds at Cleve Hill, at the city end of the Blackrock Road via Cohalan Downing.

Released all in one go, it was virtually a sell-out within a month, at top prices of €850,000 for the bigger A-rated builds by developers Citidwell.

Across the road from Cleve Hill, estate agent Timothy Sullivan sold a lovely older-style family home on Crab Lane, called Montana.

It had huge privacy, great gardens and needed a bit of TLC and another wodge of cash lavished on it, and it made €1.15 million.

Lugano, Well Road, Douglas.

Even closer to the city, another period home, the large semi-d 3 Ashton Place, made €960,000, via Sherry FitzGerald.

Also coming close to the €1m mark was the modern build Lugano, on the Well Road in Douglas, via Michael O’Donovan of Savills, and Savills also had strong, upmarket sales of new builds at Earls Well in Waterfall, in the western suburbs, with more new-builds to follow there in 2018.

North of the river, the top seller was Sundays Well’s Verulam, a south-facing Georgian house with great integrity and a sweep of gardens dropping down to the River Lee by Dalys Bridge.

It’s one of those genteel Cork classics, facing Fitzgerald Park. It fetched a reported €1.4million, via Sheila O’Flynn of Sherry FitzGerald, and was both bought by and sold by medics (Verulam was a few doors away from 2016’s top Cork seller, Woodlawn, which made €2.2m when bought by a pair of medics, and the same property was a €5m seller ‘back in the boom.’)

Turning up on the Price Register at €1.5 million at the start of 2017 was Carrigrohane Castle, but it’s understood the overall deal on the landmark building with several acres of land with development potential and furniture via agent Michael Burns was for €2m, and also sold locally was Carrigrohane House, Inchigaggin Lane, at a reported €800,000.

Several Cork sales appear on the Price Register that may have been off-market sales, asset/pension or inter-family transfers or other such low key moves.

Among them is Kitchen Cove, Ahakista, showing at a remarkable €2.05m. It only sold back in 2016 for €975,000 via agents Charles P McCarthy to Simon and Monique Pratt, after the sale of their Avoca company to US corporation Aramark for €64m.

It’s not known to have resold since: can it have doubled in value in a year, even it is is next door to Graham Norton’s waterside Ahakista retreat?

Also curious is the listing of a Goleen home, La Finca, visible on the Price Register at €1.2m. This, the family holiday home of Peter Sutherland, looks like a dark, stealth bomber and was designed by top UK-based Irish-born architect, Niall McLoughlin.

Locals say it hadn’t been on the market, and so could be some other sort of inter-family or asset transfer, as Kitchen Cove may have been.

Top county seller in Cork in 2017 was The Rectory, Glandore, via joint agents Savills and Charles P McCarthy.

The former wedding venue in a spectacular golden setting, was picked up by a Cork medical specialist who snapped up many period Cork properties during the recession, this one for holiday home use, for €1.385 million.

Out near Skibbereen, Roseanne de Vere Hunt of Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes sold Creagh Glebe, which had an asking price of €1.2m: it shows on the Register at €990,000, but that doesn’t record the full price as it excluded the value of much of the 16 acres of land it was sold with.

(It was the same story in Tipperary, where Christy O’Connor jnr’s Derrycastle House, on Lough Derg at Ballina with 20 acres with its private harbour had an asking price €1.95million, and the sale value of the house and one acre is down on the register at €1.61m. De Vere Hunt also sold Drimna Lodge, at Oysterbed Pier in Kerry, on seven acres,: it had a €1.2m asking price for its Dutch vendors.

Verulam, Sundays Well Cork.

Might it be the recorded €800k sale on the Price Register listed only as ‘Oysterbed Road?’) Out in Kinsale, a spot which has thrown up some of Cork’s strongest sale over the past five years, there were at least a half-dozen sales over €750,000, but only one’s on the Register at over €1m, and that was Sea Horse in Ardbrack, a three-bed bungalow on a 0.6 acre elevated site listed with Sherry Fitz Cork.

It made €1.15m. Also in Kinsale, an off-market sale on Catholic Walk with Savills made a locally reported €1.25m, on two acres, but shows on the Register at €850,000.

Back in Cork city and hinterland, Douglas didn’t show a €1m sale all year, but Sherry Fitz came close with Karon Cottage, on Maryborough Hill, selling for €975,000: it was bought by a leading commerical property developer, and has since been flattened, and is being replaced by a new family home.

A home in Maryborough Orchard also shows on the Register at €950,000.

Westside of the city, the Model Farm Road was a particular hot-spot, as much for supply of upmarket and new houses as much as anything else.

Apart from the castle at Carrigrohane, the big surprise was a redone house in the mid 1900s development of big detacheds at Hilton.


Here, No 6 Hilton which had sold in 2014 for €590,000 went back for sale guiding €825,000, and the Price Register shows it sold for a super-strong €975,000, via agents Cohalan Downing Associates.

Despite having over a dozen sales at the €500k-plus mark in and around Cork city (and coming close to a sell-out at 31-house Botanika,) CDA agent Brian Olden said the problem with 2017 was the overall lack of good stock coming to the market, but rather than putting that down to lack of confidence, or a lack of lending, he observed “it was just the market this year.”

Heading into 2018, there’s a curiosity about what the volume of sales of existing homes will be like, while the good news for a homes-starved country is that new house and apartment construction in key cities is gathering and continuing pace, for student accommodation, social housing, and private buyers alike.

It’s only a start to the catch-up, though, as that descriptive phrase ‘dysfunctional market’ continues to hold currency.

Derrycastle House, in 20 acres at Ballina, Co Tipperary.

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