Real Deal: The business of property by Philip Farrell
When it comes to selling your home, does time of year really matter? Historically, there were two main selling seasons - spring and autumn - and the property calendar would take the following path: January and February, finalise plans and prepare property for market; March to June - property on the market benefiting from the longer spring evenings; July and August, when the temperatures could soar to 18 or 19 degrees(!) - things slow down with schools out and holidays beckoning; September - perceived as a good time to go to market; November - the market winds down again. That was how it used to be.
Interestingly, recent surveys have shown that St Stephen's Day is the busiest day of the year for many property portals which highlights that Christmas is still the time of year when people make decisions.
However, the market today is far less seasonal. Information is available 24/7. The consumer is in control and demands instant service. There are, however, particular times when consumer focus is elsewhere. Take this month, for example: we have a political situation which brings the words "bun fight" to mind. The consensus is it will be April before we know who will lead the country. Next week there is St Patrick's Day and Cheltenham, followed by Easter which has an added importance with the centenary celebrations this year. All of the above will be confounded by a three-week school break.
If you have imminent plans to go to market, my advice is to hold off for another month. The only real downside to putting a property to market at a time traditionally seen as off-season is that it may remain on the market a little longer. However, it is unlikely to affect the final price achieved.
Long distance viewings now a (virtual) reality
A sign of things to come? Sherry FitzGerald recently announced their intention to introduce Ireland's first virtual reality platform for viewing properties. A prospective buyer can now don a Samsung Gear headset and go on a virtual walkabout through an unbuilt property where they can appreciate the proportions of the rooms, see views from the windows and experience the expected finish of the showhouse. It's technology already in use in other industries and another aspect to the "property tech" phenomenon which has exploded onto the scene of late. It also has the potential to change fundamentally how people reach their decision to buy or sell a home. According to Joanne Geary, marketing manager of Sherry FitzGerald, "The ultimate plan is to have the VR headsets in every office where buyers can view any property on our books."
One potential benefit will be reduced numbers of physical inspections as purchasers will have taken a virtual tour prior to inspection and so have edited their wish list down. It begs the question of whether such a purchaser would be required to provide a 'Valuation Report' or a 'Minority Report' for the banks for mortgage purposes?
Lighter regulations could help builders
One of the primary disincentives for builders is the excessive planning regulations which we have in Ireland. I am all for continually raising standards, however, we need to look at areas where regulations are unnecessary and act as a deterrent in the provision of new homes - an area which is currently in crisis. One only has to look at the report released this week by the ESRI which highlighted the issue of longer commutes, as discussed here last week.
Let's look at two examples of this. A current requirement is that all new homes must provide 9 sqm (100 sq ft) of storage space. This may not seem significant, however, if you assume a conservative build cost of €1,100 per sqm (€100 per sq ft), this is an additional cost of €10,000 for each home. If this requirement was removed, it could be the catalyst to making particular projects viable. Surely, the whole area of storage can be dealt with as previously, with a shed out the back.
A second area is the archaic planning process that exists in this country. Time is money. The decision-making process is slow, lethargic and discouraging.
While due process must be followed when considering all planning applications, the speed of getting to this point of decision is snail-like and costly to say the least.
Deeper commitment to Ireland from Sotheby's
Sotheby's International Realty have had a presence in the Irish property market for many years through their long-established affiliate Bill Montgomery. A very encouraging development is the arrival this month of a dedicated property team on the ground with a Dublin city centre office to open over the coming months.
The Irish wing of the operation will be headed up by David Ashmore, former director of Fine Homes and Estates at Sherry FitzGerald. The announcement is a vote of confidence in the Irish property market. What is also reassuring is that it is a commitment to the entire country, not just Dublin, as many of the properties on their books will be located outside the capital. David is keen to point out that Sotheby's "are not just interested in larger more expensive properties but also smaller exceptional properties with a difference that may appeal to the international buyer".