Irish property fair in New York hopes to lure emigrants and investors home
The lure of the Auld Sod, a recovering economy and the strength of the dollar is enticing a growing number of Irish expatriates in the US to return home for good.
Next month, hundreds of Irish properties will be presented at the Fitzpatrick Hotel in downtown Manhattan in a bid to lure home emigrants and investors alike.
With many Irish properties now selling for a fraction of their American equivalents, it's not surprising to see the recent surge of interest from expats aged between 30 and 50 looking to snap up family dwellings or holiday or retire- ment homes, according to Michael O'Connor, chairman of the Real Estate Alliance (REA).
"US buyer interest is particularly strong in many under-valued rural counties and scenic locations and, for the first time, in the bigger cities, mostly from emigrants who feel that the time is right to return," he said.
A survey of REA's 55 offices last year found one in six enquiries about buying property here came from the US.
However, Mr O'Connor stressed that prospective buyers are not misty-eyed Americans looking to acquire a Quiet Man cottage - they are mostly young to middle-aged expats who left Ireland to work and now want to come back.
Just under a third of would-be buyers are young couples with children who emigrated during the recession but are now looking to return home.
Others are middle-aged expats who emigrated 20 or 30 years ago and are looking for an Irish holiday retreat with a view to retiring.
"A lot of 50-year-olds are at a stage where they went over after college and never thought about spending their lives there but couldn't come back due to the recession," said Mr O'Connor.
"They're thinking, 'I'm too old to move back jobs-wise, but I'll move back eventually'."
Interest is also coming from Irish and American investors looking to snap up a bargain as the dollar nears parity with the euro while Irish property prices remain relatively stable.
With a third of properties on offer for less than €100,000 last year, there are some good deals to be had, especially for empty nesters who are looking for picturesque holiday or retirement homes away from urban centres.
For example, a 200-year-old thatched cottage on a pastoral field with views of the Comeragh mountains in Ballinamult, Co Waterford, is listed at €65,000.
Although it has only one bedroom and an outdoor toilet, it is the kind of rural retreat that older expats are seeking.
Hamlets in Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, west Cork and west Clare are also generating a lot of interest, said Mr O'Connor.
"It's got nothing to do with jobs," he added. "Connectivity with family and friends is important. They also want to be near the sea or the scenery."
Michael Prunty, president of the County Longford Association of New York, said there is a growing interest among his members in returning home. While the 75-year-old retiree has no intention of coming back for good after emigrating to New York in 1959, he still owns property in Longford and comes home for visits. Like many fellow expats, he says the lure of home is strong, especially in a city where the price of apartments starts in the low millions.
The property fair is on March 3 in the Fitzpatrick Hotel Grand Central.