The Thatch, Kilcarty, Co Meath: €600,000
When it comes to buying a house, it's fair to say that for many of us the heart rules the head. One UK survey by a mortgage company found that 25pc of purchasers decide to buy a property on their first viewing. Another survey put the average decision time at 17 seconds.
For Ronan Tully, the owner of The Thatch, the decision was made in a heartbeat. At the time, he and his wife Viviene were living on a small farm in north Cork with their two young children. Ronan, who is originally from Meath, was in the area visiting his family.
He said: "We passed by The Thatch and said, 'Oh my God, it's for sale.' That was it. We changed jobs, we moved up and we bought it in 2005."
Besides its obvious charms - a quaint traditional thatched cottage set on one acre - the property has a lot going for it. Just 38km from Dublin city centre, it is within a few minutes' drive of schools and the historic town of Trim, as well as Navan and Dunshaughlin.
Ronan commutes every day into the city centre, a journey that he said takes him an average of 45 minutes. Yet, he added, "you're living in the countryside, you're away from everything. It's very rural".
The cottage is believed to be the old school master's house, said Ronan, and would probably have served the needs of the estate at Kilcarty, the local Big House. Chiselled into the stonework of an old grain store at the back of the property is the date 1878.
For a traditional Irish cottage, it is surprisingly elegant and a sense of spaciousness is enhanced by the owners' choice of subtle Farrow & Ball greys, and the decision to paint the timbered ceilings throughout.
It's a million miles away from the pine interiors of many traditional Irish cottages - it has dark, polished wood floors, simple chandeliers and fine fireplaces that give it more the air of a period property.
"It had gone through one hell of a restoration with the previous owners," said Ronan. "From 2001 to 2003, they did a lot of work. It was re-thatched, they did all the electrics, it had sash windows fitted, it had a complete overhaul."
When Ronan and Viviene bought it, all that was required was to put their stamp on it with furnishing and decor. The original part of the house contains an entrance porch with a half door, a charming music room with a baby grand that has been in Ronan's family for 110 years. There's also an interconnecting drawing room and a bedroom.
The Thatch was extended to the rear, probably in the 1950s and 1960s, said Ronan, adding a sun room and a generous-sized family room with three bay windows.
The kitchen has a Smeg oven and, of course, that staple of country kitchens - a Stanley range, which is oil fired and runs the central heating. French doors lead out on to the patio to the rear. New owners might consider moving the kitchen to the family room to turn it into an open-plan living and dining area.
The master bedroom, which has four windows and is flooded with light, has a dressing room as well as an en suite with a Victorian bath and a shower. There is one further double bedroom, bringing the total to three doubles, and a family bathroom.
The gardens are a delight with two cottage-style gardens to the front and a big lawn at the rear, which is perfect for children to kick a ball around on.
"We've done a few bits and pieces to it," Ronan said of the property. "It is an old house, you have to keep on top of it even though it had been completely renovated and changed around. It's ongoing but is it a handful? No, it's not."
Prospective buyers might be daunted at the thought of maintaining a thatch."If you don't get it looked at every year you could end up in trouble, but if you get it cleaned, raked and sprayed every year, it's fine," Ronan said.
The vendors replaced the capping on the thatch in 2014 and it should not need further work until 2021 or thereabouts, while the entire thatch was redone in 2003 and should have a lifespan of 25 years, Ronan added. There are currently grants available from the Heritage Council and the Department of Housing.
The property will be of interest not just to families who are seeking a balance between country and city life, but to foreign buyers in search of a slice of Irish architectural history.
Agent: Savills Country (01) 663 4350
Viewing: Strictly by appointment