Business Post | 02 January 2022

Trophy homes defy the gloom to fetch millions

The resilience of the real estate sector this past few months was especially apparent at the top end of the market, writes Tina Marie O’Neill

The ability to adapt in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic was undeniably evident in the property world last year, with the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand the defining feature.

Virus-associated lockdowns have exacerbated the chronic problem of lack of supply in both the new and secondhand markets. That, coupled with rising and pent-up demand, has pushed up prices again as buyers compete against each other and vendors jump at the opportunity to cash in.

A search through the Property Price Register of sales last year reveals that just over €17 billion was transacted in residential property nationwide. That’s up from the previous year’s tally of €13 billion for the same period.

There were more transactions last year too: 52,081 to mid-December, compared to 41,394 in 2020. And just over 1,150 of those transactions were valued at €1 million or more.

Lissadel, 9 Shrewsbury Road, Ballsbridge, D4, at €13.25 million, was the most expensive home in the capital
Lissadel, 9 Shrewsbury Road, Ballsbridge, D4, at €13.25 million, was the most expensive home in the capital

Top prices paid for trophy homes increased too, compared to 2020. The highest amount paid for a private home in the capital last year was €13.25 million, paid by Pat Crean, the Marlet property director, for Lissadell at 9 Shrewsbury Road in Ballsbridge. The most expensive home sold in the capital in 2020 was Rathmore in Glenageary which changed hands for €6.5 million.

Similarly, 2020’s top country sale, of Corbalton Hall in Tara, Co Meath, achieved €9 million, much less than the €20 million-plus paid by John Collison, co-founder and president of Stripe, for the 1,200 acre Abbey Leix estate in Co Laois, sold last year through Colliers and Sotheby’s International Realty.

Abbey Leix, Abbeyleix, Co Laois was the most expensive country house sale in 2021: it was bought by John Collison of Stripe, for more than €20 million
Abbey Leix, Abbeyleix, Co Laois was the most expensive country house sale in 2021: it was bought by John Collison of Stripe, for more than €20 million

As always, there is a caveat with the Property Price Register in that it is not a price index but a register of residential property sold as declared to the Revenue Commissioners for stamp duty purposes and it comes with a myriad of stipulations and conditions. Similarly, multi-unit sales are included in the listing, which also skews the overall picture when it comes to traditional property sales.

Much of the competitive tussle was at the lower and middle sections of the market, up to about €1 million or thereabouts. At the top end of the market, trophy homes sold well last year, often with two or three serious buyers in contention. Two trends are at the forefront here, including off-market purchases and virtual buys.

Dublin

“It was a great year for high-end property sales, albeit a hectic one,” said Barbara Carty of Inhous, a London-Dublin based residential property consultancy with a high-net-worth client base.”

“In the past year, people have really improved their decision making skills and are no longer procrastinating over purchases. They’ve also tempered their expectations and have dropped some of the less practical must-have boxes on their wish-list.”

“There is a lot of money in Dublin city and a large number of expats are coming home with money. Although we have international clients, London is our main link to a capital city as we have an established office and client base there. Many of the London-based buyers are looking for a well-located property at the €3.5 to €4 million mark, which may need another €1 million or so to upgrade. A year or two ago, buyers at this level would only consider turnkey homes.”

Glenheather, Avoca Avenue, in Blackrock, Co Dublin was bought for €8.22 million
Glenheather, Avoca Avenue, in Blackrock, Co Dublin was bought for €8.22 million

“Trophy houses are getting trophy prices. At the upper end of the market, if the property is right it will sell, such as Glenheather,” she said, referring to the double fronted period residence on Avoca Avenue in Blackrock, Co Dublin, which she sold to an international buyer for €8.22 million in a private sale.

Another off-market sale of note between joint agents Inhous and Lisney was Sancta Maria in Brighton Road in Foxrock, which completed in eight weeks and achieved a price of €4.125 million following interest from three potential buyers.

Like many properties this year, Brookvale in Stillorgan, Dublin 18 was sold to a family moving home to Ireland
Like many properties this year, Brookvale in Stillorgan, Dublin 18 was sold to a family moving home to Ireland

Inhous had two notable virtual sales last year: Brookvale in Stillorgan, which it sold jointly with Bergins to a family moving home to Ireland and achieved €2.25 million, and 47 Serpentine Avenue in Sandymount in Dublin 4, again jointly with Bergins, to a buyer in London who secured it for €1.215 million.

“Covid-19 has stopped a lot of overseas buyers from visiting so they tend to send family members instead,” Carty said.

“Often the buyer is Irish and knows the area the property is in already. Off-market sales are about discretion from both the buyer’s perspective and the vendor, who may prefer not to have a sign mounted or wish to avoid tyre-kickers.”

She also said that buyers were not stupid and there was a limit to what they would pay for a house.

“They have done their homework,” she said. “In the current market, bids are strong. If a vendor becomes greedy and either pushes the asking price too high or goes from an off-market offer to placing the property on the open market, they run the risk of losing the sale altogether. And while prices in some cases have been unbelievable, vendors need to be realistic. Not every house is a trophy house.”

“The higher end of the family home market has performed well over the last 12 months with an obvious trend of expats returning home for various reasons, be it Brexit or Covid-19, many with cash and ready to buy their forever family home,” Orla McMorrow, deputy chief executive at DNG, said.

Churchtown House in Dublin 14, which achieved €3 million
Churchtown House in Dublin 14, which achieved €3 million

Notable high-end sales at DNG last year included 32 and 34 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, which were sold together for €5.5 million; 40 Belgrave Square West in Monkstown, which went for €3.7 million; and the handsome Churchtown House in Dublin 14, which achieved €3 million.

“Many vendors at this level of the market postponed their sales as they felt uncomfortable with buyers physically walking through their homes in the early stages of the pandemic,” McMorrow said.

40 Belgrave Square West, Monkstown, Co Dublin: sold for €3.7m
40 Belgrave Square West, Monkstown, Co Dublin: sold for €3.7m

“There was also strategic timing deployed by some vendors as evidence of market growth became apparent during the year. Bidding from multiple parties became the norm, which was a very different picture at this end of the market to that seen in pre-Covid-19 2019.”

Country

“Abbey Leix was the largest residential transaction of 2021 and it was great to see it sold to a young Irish buyer,” Marcus Magnier of Colliers said, referring to the purchase by John Collison, cofounder and president of Stripe, of the 1,200 acre estate in Co Laois.

“Technology professionals are increasingly active in the high-end residential market, and we expect that this will increase further as companies such as Google, Facebook, Stripe and TikTok continue to expand here.”

“While the property price index and register are good starting points in terms of assessing trends, these properties are unique, so pricing is property-specific to a large extent,” he said.

Colliers’ enquiry list for high quality country properties grew significantly in 2021 with interest from buyers from Singapore, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia as well as Britain, the US, Europe and Australia.

“There are foreign nationals seeking Irish holiday homes and, increasingly, Irish expats moving home. Many overseas buyers partner with relocation agents and we see this as a growing trend. Colliers recently partnered with Luxury Portfolios, which further expands our global reach, and we expect this will lead to even stronger global interest in 2022,” Magnier said, referring to the worldwide network of luxury real estate agencies.

Kilcreene Lodge, in Co Kilkenny, the old Smithwick House, made €4.25m
Kilcreene Lodge, in Co Kilkenny, the old Smithwick House, made €4.25m

Roseanne de Vere Hunt, director and head of country homes at Sherry FitzGerald, said: “Last year was an incredible year for the country homes market, with some amazing sales. Starting off the year with the Liss Ard Estate in Cork, Abbey Leix sold during the summer, Kilcreene Lodge in Kilkenny (the old Smithwick House) and Seafield House in Donabate in north Dublin.”

Liss Ard Estate in Skibbereen, Co Cork, which sold for €3.5m, was among the top country sales
Liss Ard Estate in Skibbereen, Co Cork, which sold for €3.5m, was among the top country sales

“These properties achieved serious prices and strong interest. The time to sell has reduced significantly and houses by water are now in high demand as buyers seek to get away from cities,” she said.

Seafield House, Kilcrea, Donabate, in Co Dublin sold for over €9m in an ‘incredible year’ for country homes sales
Seafield House, Kilcrea, Donabate, in Co Dublin sold for over €9m in an ‘incredible year’ for country homes sales

James Butler, head of country homes at Savills, sold a number of high-end homes in 2021, including Sarrett, a cutting-edge home on Church Road in Killiney in Dublin for about €2.85 million; Rockfield House in Co Meath for €1.75 million, the coastal Donegal Shore House for about €1 million and the Derrypark & Glenbeg Portfolio on 517 acres in Co Mayo for €1.6 million.

Shore House in Co Donegal made about €1 million
Shore House in Co Donegal made about €1 million

According to Butler, the resilience of the Irish economy can be attributed to the robust performance of multinational companies, especially those in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors.

Houses by water are in demand and Derrypark and Glenbeg in Co Mayo, on 517 acres, sold for €1.6 million
Houses by water are in demand and Derrypark and Glenbeg in Co Mayo, on 517 acres, sold for €1.6 million

“One notable feature of the economy through the pandemic has been the rise in household savings due to diminished opportunities to spend,” he said. “In total, net household deposits have increased by €21.6 billion since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, which is boosting residential purchasing power. Another supportive factor has been falling mortgage costs, with rates now at their lowest levels on record.

“Buyers in the prime segment of the market are incredibly selective and are willing to wait for the right property. Once it’s found, they will pay a premium, knowing that there’s a finite supply of perceived perfect homes.”

“Buyers are also becoming savvy at generating income from these properties. At the higher end of the market, properties are unlikely to be their sole residence, therefore owners are utilising digital platforms to let out their houses as luxury retreats.”

Top five sales, Dublin 2021

Lissadel, 9 Shrewsbury Road, Ballsbridge, D4€13.25m
Sorrento House, 1 Sorrento Terrace, Dalkey€10.65m
Seafield House, Kilcrea, Donabate, north Co Dublin€9m +
Glenheather, Avoca Avenue, Blackrock€8.22m
High Cross, 40 Temple Road, Dartry, D6€5.75m

Top country sales, 2021

Abbey Leix, Abbeyleix, Co Laois€20m
Kilcreene Lodge, Kilkenny€4.25m
Liss Ard Estate, Skibbereen, Co Cork€3.5m
SalterbridgeHouse, Cappoquin, Co Waterford€3.25m
Lough Rusheen, Barna, Co Galway€3.02m

Story originally published at the Business Post.

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