Homes

Thursday 31 July 2014

English happy raising standards in Cork

At least 70pc of buyers in West Cork are English and most of them intend living here permanently

Mark Keenan

Published 04/04/2014|02:30

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West Cork, which has picturesque facades, has proven very popular with English buyers.
The Queen's visit to Cork in 2012 is credited with this surge in interest.
Tig Neill is one of the quaint properties in West Cork

Some assert that their intended target was Kinsale, but that a ship's captain they had lifted en route had somehow dissuaded them from sacking his home town. Another theory suggests that, disparaged by the increasing English local presence, the local O'Driscoll chieftain quietly arranged via his European contacts to have them lifted.

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In either case, fear of an unexpected holiday abroad meant the English steered clear of Baltimore and its environs for almost a hundred years afterwards.

More recently came the 2007 property crash which had a similar effect on the inflow from Albion. Not since the sack of Baltimore would so many English be deterred from settling in their beloved West Cork – long the favoured Irish destination of choice for British retirees in search of holiday homes and the quiet life abroad.

Since the crash kicked in, the market had been pancake flat – until the middle of last year when, after a five-year absence, English buyers began to trickle back.

Since the start of this year however, UK arrivals to West Cork have greatly increased their impact on the local market as they noticed prices rising from the bottom. This, in turn, has increased the price of coastal properties by about 10pc in the first quarter of the year alone say local agents.

What's surprising to local agents is that they've also been joined by Americans, South Africans and the Eastern Europeans in the quest to buy prime property and prices for coastal homes in Ireland's best holiday homes location.

By the estimates of Charles McCarthy, an estate agent based at Skibbereen, prices have now rolled on from 50pc of what they were at peak to 70pc in the better coastal locations like Baltimore, Glandore and Clonakilty. Much of these gains have been made since last autumn.

He estimates that non nationals now make up 70pc plus of property purchases in coastal West Cork with UK buyers comprising the runaway majority. Perhaps the biggest surprise according to local estate agents, is that 90pc of the UK buyers aren't acquiring holiday homes – but full time residences.

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Charlie McCarthy attributes the new flood of interest to the relative value for a British citizen in the scenic coastal area which is just two hours away from Heathrow.

The exchange rate helps, as do the current high prices experienced in the British property market, where the price of a four-bed semi in the south of England can acquire a six-bed coastal property in West Cork and leave a decent chunk of change over.

But the Skibbereen-based agent is also convinced that the Queen has had a lot to do with it: "Believe it or not the Queen's visit two years ago made many British people sit up and begin to consider Ireland in a real way.

"While it might seem strange to us, a good many of them didn't believe Ireland was a safe place for British residents until they saw the Queen over here."

Other factors sending them to coastal Cork including a growing disenchantment among British citizens with their own country as a place of residence for retired citizens along with an increased disdain for traditional British ex-pat boltholes like Spain and Portugal which many Brits believe have gone downmarket.

The increased UK demand has also hiked the sales prospects of those holiday homes which might also be suitable for full-time family residences. A good example is 3 Seagrove, a cut-stone holiday terrace with brightly painted trim on the Glandore Road near Leap. With three bedrooms and a sun terrace, the agent is asking €195,000.

What it also means is that previously stricken new holiday home schemes have also been selling quietly. For his part McCarthy points to 25 Nama-controlled holiday homes in Mariner's Cove, Baltimore, which he has disposed of mostly through the last six months. The last six have just gone sale agreed for €900,000 – or €150,000 a piece.

The influx has also increased the price of more specialised properties selling such as Tig Neil, a chocolate box traditional two-storey farmhouse on Cape Clear Island which faces onto Baltimore. The five-bedroom abode is located near the island's harbour and is on offer for €185,000 through Henry O'Leary.

The Clonakilty-based auctioneer says that alongside the UK buyers he's also had a spate of recent enquiries from South Africans fed up with life there under the Zuma regime.

"They've been convinced by the value on offer here," says O'Leary. "The market hit the bottom around here last year but now we've definitely noticed a pick up and many properties are exceeding their asking prices.

"Recent sales included a house which was asking €295,000 and got €316,000 and another asking €1m which made close to €1.1m."

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