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Broadband, home office, garden: House buyers quit cities for home towns as remote working trend continues

:: Property market shifts with more focus on garden space and home offices

:: Buyers believe that remote working trend will outlast the Covid pandemic

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'Estate agents in the big cities and regions alike are reporting both a rush to buy and a reluctance to sell that is causing concern over market distortion.' (stock photo)

'Estate agents in the big cities and regions alike are reporting both a rush to buy and a reluctance to sell that is causing concern over market distortion.' (stock photo)

'Estate agents in the big cities and regions alike are reporting both a rush to buy and a reluctance to sell that is causing concern over market distortion.' (stock photo)

House hunters are returning to their native counties as they turn their backs on city living and take advantage of remote working.

New housing data show prices in the country's regional towns have risen by almost 1pc in 12 weeks to €163,345, compared to less than 0.5pc experienced in bigger population centres. The average time to sell a property has fallen 30pc.

The trend confirms a change in buyer priorities for home-buying as the Covid pandemic has demonstrated that working from home is a viable option for tens of thousands of people.

The Irish Independent/ Real Estate Alliance (REA) Average House Price Index also shows that, nationwide, property prices continue to hold up.

The sale value of a three-bedroomed semi-detached house across the country has risen slightly - up by 0.6pc on average over the past three months to €236,046, a rise of 0.4pc compared to a year ago.

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A nationwide rush to buy has caused the average time taken to sell a property to tumble from 10 weeks in June to seven in September.

Buyers are expressly asking for homes based on broadband coverage, home office potential, and garden space rather than factors such as commuter-friendliness and transport links, which have previously dominated.

"Maybe one in five purchases is from people cashing in on their sales in Dublin and moving to larger houses down the country. People are making life-changing decisions to be based down the country," said Harry Sothern, of REA Sothern in Carlow.

In a busy last period, REA Dawson in Tullow also reports selling a number of houses to clients who are now planning to work from home.

"It is clear that broadband is absolutely key for buyers and good amenities and space have become more important than transport links and commuting time," said REA spokesperson Barry McDonald.

In Leitrim, property is now selling within five weeks of coming on the market.

REA agent Joe Brady is seeing clients buy in Leitrim with the intention of spending a maximum two days a week working in Dublin, a two-hour train journey away.

Properties with home office potential are being snapped up around the country, with REA Seamus Carthy in Roscommon having 43 potential buyers on a waiting list for homes with garden space priced between €350,000 and €500,000.

"All of the buyers are families who are either moving home or have decided to move out of bigger urban locations in search of more space and a better quality of life," he said.

"We have also seen a resurgence in demand in coastal areas such as west Cork, Kerry, Waterford and Donegal as ­people realise that holiday homes can be more permanent."

Meanwhile estate agents in the big cities and regions alike are reporting both a rush to buy and a reluctance to sell that is causing concern over market distortion.

In the cities, buyers are also anxious to conclude deals, but for different reasons.

Many are anxious to bag a home before their current mortgage loan approval term expires. As Covid-19 moves into a second phase, buyers fear their loan approval might not be renewed.

This is despite the fact that banks can veto loans at any time based on an individual's changed circumstances.

A nationwide rush to buy has caused the average time taken to sell a property to tumble from 10 weeks in June to seven weeks in September.

Buyers are expressly asking for homes based on broadband coverage, home office potential and garden space rather than factors like commuter friendliness and transport links which have previously dominated.

For their part, estate agents report being extraordinarily busy showing homes and closing sales, but are also aware they are now struggling to find new stock.

"Houses are now taking an average three weeks less to sell across the country, driven by a combination of low supply and highly motivated buyers," said REA spokesperson Barry McDonald.

He expressed concern at the pace of buying but also at the increasing shortage of stock coming up for sale.

"This is a huge shift in market behaviour, and one that we have not experienced in the last decade, with almost every agent reporting a substantial drop in the time to reach sale agreed," he said.

"Buyers are more focused, with a higher percentage of bids being made, and in many cases are looking to secure homes before their current mortgage approval runs out. They are competing with a definite shortage of stock nationwide, which is concerning our agents.

"This supply deficit is keeping prices buoyant and applying upward pressure in some cases. It is evident that nationwide, people have really used the lockdown to take stock of their lives, experience remote working and in some cases, relocate in fairly drastic ways."

The price of a three-bedroomed semi-detached house in Dublin city rose 0.5pc in three months to €429,333. Over the past year, the figure is 0.2pc.

Anthony McGee from REA McGee on Dublin's south city is seeing an abundance of first-time buyers and mortgage-approved buyers and describes a sense of panic buying. The capital's biggest increases came in the south County Dublin market where prices rose more than €3,000 to €416,666 - up 0.8pc on the last quarter.

City agents report well-­located properties close to amenities are high in demand with an emphasis on outdoor space becoming more important than ever.

The lowest rise was felt in other cities - Cork, Limerick and Waterford - which experienced a selling price change of 0.15pc to an average of €256,250.

The Irish Independent/REA Average House Price Survey concentrates on true recently achieved sale prices achieved for the country's most typical stock home, the three-bed semi, thus giving an up-to-date barometer of the second-hand homes market.

Irish Independent