Why demand is surging for West Cork homes

A surge of interest in coastal properties from Irish buyers has seen homes selling fast
Why demand is surging for West Cork homes

ONCE seen by Europeans as a safe haven from war, West Cork is now becoming a place where Irish buyers are going to escape city life in the pandemic.

Local auctioneers report that sales to people relocating to West Cork to work from home became a growing trend in 2020 and also that the percentage of sales to Irish buyers is increasing. They say there has been a surge in interest in coastal properties — especially ones with sea views.

Among the Irish who have purchased West Cork holiday homes in recent times is actress Saoirse Ronan, who is reported to have spent €800,000 on a property at Foilnamuck between Schull and Ballydehob.

The main street in Ballydehob.
The main street in Ballydehob.

According to auctioneer Pat Maguire, the increase in Irish interest in West Cork properties, coupled with the drop off in overseas purchases, has changed the market significantly. 

“In previous years, 25% of our sales were to foreign and UK buyers, but in 2020 that went down to 5%," says Mr Maguire. 

He says the most dramatic change has been the increase in relocating buyers, including returning locals as well as city dwellers who are re-evaluating their lifestyle and want to work from home in West Cork.

“We have had sales of high-priced properties with sea views, but we are also selling to young buyers looking for more affordable properties close to the coast.’’ 

Mr Maguire says the increased interest has led to quicker sales of waterfront properties. Run-down cottages with sea views are also getting more viewings than they would have previously. 

"Buyers are seeing things differently — if they want the view, they say they can fix the house.’’ 

Auctioneer Henry O’Leary reports a similar trend, noting that in the past he saw up to 50% of coastal West Cork properties going to overseas buyers, a figure that has now dropped to 15% to 20%.

He says there is still some foreign interest and he recently went sale agreed on a Union Hall property for €450,000, which is being bought by a South African buyer who viewed it remotely.

Mr O’Leary estimates that around 20% of his sales are to Irish people returning from abroad. 

“We are seeing buyers with young families who are coming back from Australia, the US and the UK,” he says. 

In January Mr O’Leary listed a renovated cottage with sea views in Dunworley (which featured in the Irish Examiner). 

“In just two weeks, it went sale agreed for €340,000 — €40,000 above its asking price," he reveals.

An internet search for West Cork throws up a selection of coastal properties to suit a range of budgets, including everything from derelict cottages to spectacular waterfront ones with swimming pools.

During 2020 there were several high-price sales. At the end of the year, waterfront property Glaisin Alainn at Foilnamuck sold for €1.225m, while a renovated grainstore at Ringarogy Island near Baltimore went for €1.4m. Selling agent Charles McCarthy auctioneers says both went to Irish buyers.

In December, Seahaven — a renovated 18th-century church in Ballylickey — went sale agreed above its €349,000 guide price within a matter of weeks. Selling agents Sherry FitzGerald O’Neill say this unique coastal property attracted huge interest in Ireland and abroad, but went to a Cork-based buyer.

Ballydehob, €350,000 

BACK on the market at the start of the year after its sale fell through, Hayfield Cottage near Ballydehob is both pretty and substantial.

A modern 2,000 sq ft five-bed dormer property on a site of an acre, it has been decorated cottage-style on the inside. Seeking offers of €350,000, selling agent Pat Maguire says it’s a charming family home with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

“Its space, contemporary décor and B3 energy rating will make it highly attractive to buyers relocating from cities,’’ says Mr Maguire noting that the property at Scrahanaleara is six kilometres from Ballydehob and within a 15-minute drive from Bantry.

VERDICT: It’s four or five kilometres from the coast and would be a lot more expensive if it were on the waterfront with sea views.

Castletownbere €1.65 million 

THE €1.65 million asking price for Otterbank in Castletownbere makes it one of the most expensive seafront properties currently on the market in West Cork.

In addition to its glorious Beara setting and sea views, it offers all you could wish for in a waterfront coastal property — seven acres of gardens, a long stretch of shingled shoreline to swim from, a private quay, a boat shed and a shoreline cabana. That’s in addition to the impressive 2005 built 4,500 sq ft dormer property, positioned to make the most of the views. Previously listed with a guide of €2 million, it came back on the market recently with Sherry FitzGerald O’Neill, who say it’s generating good interest as a result of the increased demand for coastal properties.

VERDICT: An expensive but extensive offering.

Schull €310,000 

Schull has long been considered one of the most fashionable West Cork places in which to own a holiday home.

New to market with a guide of €310,000, The Admiralty, Fastnet Residence might be an option for a buyer who doesn’t have a movie actor’s budget.

Part of a 1980s-built gated complex of five properties with shared garden space, it’s a three-bed house located in the centre of Schull village.

Selling agents Charles McCarthy auctioneers say it’s a well-kept 1,100 sq ft house which could be bought as a residence or for holidays. Offering sea views from the upper floor, it has an attic which auctioneer Sean Carmody says is suitable for conversion.

VERDICT: Centrally located in Schull, it’s just a few minutes walk from the harbour

Union Hall €335,000 

A FOUR-bed detached house at Clontaff near Union Hall village could be an option for a buyer looking for a coastal property to work from home.

A little over a kilometre from the village and two from the beach at Carrigillihy, it’s a 1,500 sq ft property on a site of over half an acre and offers an additional 800 sq ft of space in a detached two-storey garage.

Seeking offers of €335,000, auctioneer Henry O’Leary says it’s a well-kept property ideal for a family, especially as it is next door to the local primary school.

A small fishing village located at the western side of Glandore Harbour, Union Hall is a popular tourist spot where properties on the waterfront fetch high prices.

VERDICT: The detached two-storey garage looks perfect for a home office.

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