Last year was quite "tricky" for agent Paul Kelly of DNG Kelly in Portarlington. Just when he thought things were picking up, they went quiet again. "There are definitely more mortgages available now, which means activity levels are up on last year, but it's still quite unpredictable," says Kelly.
Laois benefits from being cheaper than Kildare and Dublin, so it's becoming more appealing as a commuter area for budget buyers willing to take on the extra travel time. The train from Portarlington into Dublin only takes 50 minutes and the new train system that is to go under the Phoenix Park will have connections to Portlaoise, further enhancing the county's appeal as a commuting option.
Unfortunately for Laois, many home owners still have to leave the county to go to work.
"Employment is still a problem," says Kelly. "The main streets aren't as buoyant as they were before the recession, but things are picking up slowly. Local and small businesses are now starting to look at renting units so things are moving in the right direction, albeit at a slow pace."
Supply is steady in the county, with the few new builds meeting demand. "Developers are looking at land in recent months so I'm definitely expecting more activity in new homes this year," says Kelly. "There are four new developments in the county at the moment. Buyers aren't queuing overnight to get their names down or anything like that, but there is a steady stream of interest and they seem to be holding their own."
The most popular areas are the Dublin Road in Portlaoise and Station Road in Portarlington, so whenever properties come up in these parts there is always a lot of interest.
Prices in the county rose by about 8pc in 2016 and Kelly expects 2017 to be about the same, with a general increase of 7pc. He predicts a bigger rise of about 11pc for one-bed apartments and a lower rise of 5pc in the higher end of the market.