Overseas cash buyers helping to boost housing market activity
An auctioneer was surprised recently to find that 35 Chinese people turned up to view a Dublin flat he was selling whereas only one Irish person was among the 40 viewers.
Such strong Chinese interest appears to reflect the growing reputation of the location near Parnell St as the city's prospective Chinatown.
It also seems that Chinese buyers are working to a different eminent deadline to many Irish buyers. While the Irish are looking to the end of mortgage tax relief for buyers at the end of this month, the Chinese are looking towards the deadline of 9 February next.
That is New year's Eve in the Chinese calendar and the date by which many Chinese people believe it is good luck in which to buy and move into a home.
Paul McGreal of Eddisons estate agents was the one surprised to find such strong Chinese interest in the apartment at 177 Ivy Exchange, Granby Place, off Parnell Square, Dublin 1.
He sold it at auction for €198,000 or €68,500 over its €129,500 guide price. He also sold a neighbouring flat at 178 Ivy Exchange, a similar unit with a similar guide, for a slightly lower €173,000 ,the difference being due to the latter's smaller size.
Afterwards he said that the auction campaign helped to build up a considerable database of interested Chinese investors.
All in all 65pc of the 11 lots at the firm's auction last month went to non-Irish purchasers, all of whom were buying with cash.
In terms of sales, bidders from the UK are still prominent, reflected in the fact that we distributed 3,500 catalogues throughout the UK," Mr McGreal adds.
Rival auctioneer Robert Hoban of Allsop Space has also seen this type of interest. He estimates that overseas buyers spent €12.5m at his firm's auctions in the last 18 months, buying as many as 93 properties of which 75 were residential. These sales account for 14pc of all the lots purchased.
He estimates that overseas bidders account for an even higher 30pc to 40pc of all bidders including underbidders.
"Members of the resident Chinese community attend every auction and regularly bid in the room, and a number have been successful.
"They target city centre tenanted apartments, and vacant retail units in any urban location," he adds.
Julia Liu, Irish representative with the international Chinese publication Epoch Times, says Chinese people prefer to buy before the Chinese New Year as it means good luck for the next year – not alone for the house but for the business of the family as well as the children's studies.
On the other hand, established Irish agency Lisney points out that most of the overseas interest in its properties has come from Irish people who have been working in financial services in the City of London for more than 10 years.
David Byrne of Lisney says these people now see value in Irish upmarket houses and are willing to pay over a million euro for them. Some are buying with a view to moving home in four or five years and renting out the houses in the meantime," he adds.
Robert Hoban concurs. "Most of the expat buyers emigrated 15-20 years ago and have made their money overseas in the IT, engineering, medical, pharmaceutical or construction sectors.
"Most have long held a desire to buy back home, but were precluded from doing so due to high prices in comparison with property in other countries during the boom years. They have offspring reaching college age and many have made clear their interest in residential property near universities such as Trinity College and UCD, with the express intention of sending their children to college here."
The most valuable residential property bought by an overseas buyer, at an Allsop auction was 67 Rathgar Road, Rathmines, Dublin which sold for €485,000, or 47pc above its guide price. A Luxembourg-based buyer bought this Georgian house which was set out in 10 flats in the September 2011 auction.
Byrne has also seen increased interest from Americans, usually with some Irish in their background, who feel that this might be a good time to buy.
They are more likely to be looking for an investment or a holiday home which they could also use themselves for a time.
Hoban has also seen UK investors looking for income-producing city centre properties, or holiday homes in scenic areas, as well as UK nationals living in France and Gibraltar who are targeting income-producing properties, primarily in Dublin, which offer better returns compared to equivalent assets in London or other UK cities.
"They have built in a certain expectation of growth in capital value over a seven to 10-year period. The feedback is that Ireland's seven-year CGT holiday for properties bought before 2014 is a big factor in their decision to invest here," he adds.
Uniquely, they also include Israeli investors, a number of which have lodged deposits to bid at several auctions.