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Chasing lifestyle at top of housing market

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Beechy Park sold for &euro5.3m. Prior to that, it went for £5,000 - back in 1924

Beechy Park sold for &euro5.3m. Prior to that, it went for £5,000 - back in 1924

Beechy Park sold for &euro5.3m. Prior to that, it went for £5,000 - back in 1924

IT has been a dismal year for house prices which have slumped by 30 per cent and more by any estimates. Houses are taking a long time to sell and several price drops need to be factored in, if they are to shift at all. What seems to shift a top of the range house are serious grounds and large landscaped gardens.

It's a long way from 2006 when developer David Arnold paid €31m for Gortanore, a family home on 2.8 acres in Foxrock village -- €11m over the AMV.

One problem with even knowing what is happening in the market is that agents no longer reveal the price achieved in private treaty sales following a spat with the Irish Times over inaccurate prices which some had allegedly been doling out .

However, despite all the gloom, houses that are priced correctly or are exceptional in some way are still selling. The 10 most expensive houses sold in 2008 all made over €4.5m while the top 20 were all over €3m. In the early part of the year, many agents sold houses privately or off market as many vendors did not want the publicity involved in putting a house up for sale publicly. These are now fewer in number as the lists of available buyers are eliminated.

More of course are selling publicly, although the days of tens of millions are well and truly over. What is selling are large period homes with serious gardens, more for the lifestyle than development value. This year the top price paid for a house was €12m for Tynte Park, Dunlavin, Co Wicklow -- an enormous country house on a 145-acre estate, which had gone on the market at €15m.

Jennifer Guinness sold her Howth home for almost €8m -- about a third lower that she had hoped to get for the 8.9-acre property. The six-bedroom house, which has an indoor swimming pool, was asking €12m last March. Singer Lisa Stansfield also finally unloaded her home, Mount Henry in Dalkey, for close to €6m after reducing the price of the home and 0.7 acre of gardens by €1.4m. Knight Frank also sold Monetreosa, a large colonial-style house on just under half an acre of garden on Sorrento Road for around €5.25m. It had sold for €5.1m in 2005.

Foxrock also saw a couple of expensive houses change hands. Rustanvrede, Brighton Road, a five-bed detached house on 1.3 acres, was sold for over €6m. Sherry FitzGerald got €5.7m for Glenarm on Torquay Road when it went for auction. Two bidders chased the five-bedroom Victorian house on almost three-quarters of an acre, which had an AMV of €5.75m. Another country home, Beechy Park, a 224-acre estate in Rathvilly, Co Carlow, sold for €5.35m at auction. The estate was once owned by the nephew of former British prime minister, Benjamin D'Israeli, and is situated in a parkland setting with views of the Wicklow hills. The estate was last sold in 1924 when it made £5,000.

Other houses such as 13 Herbert Park finally sold after the owners reduced their expectations, asking for €4.6m having put it on the market for €6m in 2007. An even more serious reduction from €7.5m to €4.5m saw Jamestown Court, in Co Westmeath, sold. Again it was a lavishly restored country house, surrounded by well-maintained grounds with a formal walled garden and cottages on 62 acres.

Other well tended gardens, this time designed by Chelsea Garden Show medallist Paul Martin, proved a draw when Fairholme on Brighton Road, Foxrock achieved €4.25m at another Sherry Fitz auction. Another house on 0.66 acres, Mount Prospect, Brennanstown Vale, Cabinteely, sold for €4.5m. Cremorne, Dublin Road, Shankill, another five-bed house on 1.75 acres sold for around €4.5m.

Willow Lodge, a Regency period residence, on Richmond Hill in Monkstown, on 0.25 acre went for close to its asking price of €4m.

Charton, the south Dublin home of the late Terence de Valera, the youngest son of President Eamon de Valera, also sold for around €4m, having been valued at between €4.5m and €5m. The price was more about the magnificent three-quarters-of-an-acre enclosed garden than the actual house. Further into town Gunne sold 31 Eglinton Road, Donnybrook, for around €3.6m after withdrawing it from auction while Lisney secured €3.3m for 9B Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, a refurbished three-bed over garden level house -- €550,000 over the AMV of €2.75m. Location was un-doubtedly part of the draw. 9B looks across to the American embassy, and it's a short stroll to Lansdowne Road.

Lisney also fetched €3.25m for Rowlands, a three-bed detached home in the Shrewsbury development in Ballsbridge. While it also reportedly sold a 1.75 acre site with full planning for a detached house at Ceanchor Road, Howth, for €3.2m. Lennox fetched over €3m for a large house on 0.5 of an acre at The Burnaby, in Greystones.

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