A-rating and proximity to town wins Carlow buyers
"The distressed property sales are starting to wane a little bit. Some of the vulture funds who bought them are starting to release them back to the market, so there are still repossessed properties around - but not as many as a few years ago. Fortunately, prices have started to climb a bit because they were artificially depressing the market," says Harry Sothern.
"What's interesting is that the new semis in Carlow are gone up to about €230,000, which is dragging up the second-hand market. There are very few on offer at the moment because the builders are only selling one by one and when they know they're guaranteed the sale. They're not building on spec.
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"What I've noticed in the past year is that the A-rating on a new home is a huge thing now for first-time buyers. They seem more interested in that than location."
This means that even though the newly build semis are 20pc more expensive than the second-hand model, buyers are opting for them to get the rating.
Another new trend Sothern has noticed is that detached houses outside of town - traditionally the ideal for a family with young children - have become more difficult to sell.
"We have some very fine houses that are eight to 10 miles out of town, and they are becoming very difficult to sell. Young children now are involved in so many activities and parents don't want to spend their days in the car ferrying them around. The properties nearer town are much more saleable." Sothern predicts that things will slow down slightly in the coming year, with a more modest rise of 3pc across the board. "There is definitely a concern about Brexit. Also, at the end of the year, it seems to be very difficult to get a loan over the line with the banks. People who have had pre-loan approval are struggling to get the money out of the bank."
Carlow town is still the place where most sales are happening because of the proximity to facilities. "As a friend of mine always said, 'the closer you go to Dublin, the more ice cream you'll sell'. That still holds true... If I get a 2,000sq ft house within a mile of the town, and I have a similar house 10 miles out, the ratio of interest will be 5:1. What's surprising is that we haven't had many buyers coming from Dublin who have been priced out of the market. They just don't seem to want to do the commute anymore. Perhaps the three lanes on the motorway when it's finished will make a difference.
"We've been happy with how things have gone this year. We've had a decent level of activity."