THE startling scale of Ireland's property crash is laid bare today as academics reveal that more than 600 'ghost' estates are scattered around the country.
For the first time, a comprehensive map charts the locations of the empty and abandoned developments that stand as haunting monuments to the Celtic Tiger splurge.
The analysis suggests pockets of the north-west and midlands will be worst hit by a housing glut that will take years to sell off.
Largely rural counties Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon and Sligo have the highest number of partially built and semi-vacant housing estates when measured against their populations.
Their relative distance from major cities is expected to compound their oversupply problem for the foreseeable future.
Although Cork has 96 so-called 'ghost' estates and Dublin 58 -- the highest figures by county -- it is believed that their urban populations can absorb the surplus much sooner.
The map was drawn up by the National Institute of Regional and Spatial Analysis (Nirsa), which last week revealed that more than 300,000 houses now lie empty around the country.
Professor Rob Kitchin, director of the NUI Maynooth-based body which advises the Government, said black-spot counties at the end of the N4 could be scarred for up to a decade.
"The population went up the M1, the N2, down the N7, down the N11 and so the N4 was the last big corridor. They started their housing boom after everybody else."
His calculation shows that there are 621 'ghost' estates. The worst-hit area is Leitrim, where 2,945 homes were built during the boom, despite population projections that showed just 588 homes were actually needed.
Longford, Roscommon and Sligo, in particular, as well as Monaghan, Cavan and Carlow also face years of oversupply.
In the months ahead, the State's 'bad bank', Nama, will assess the value of the uncompleted and half-empty estates and determine their future.
Nirsa estimates around half of them will be taken over by the agency, which will then have to decide whether to sell, lease, maintain, hold, develop or demolish them.
There is speculation that some developers are keeping 'ghost' estates off the market or hiking their prices in the hope that Nama will value them higher and take them off their hands.
Prof Kitchen believes many estates in rural areas could be left as eerie monuments to the property crash.
"They will just be left as scars on the landscape, because nobody will be prepared to pay the cost of knocking them down and restoring the land to agricultural prices," he said.