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The Property Price Register's home page.

The Property Price Register's home page.

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House hunting

ALMOST one-third more property sales took place in the last 12 months compared to the previous year, with sales numbers for new and second-hand homes increasing by almost 30pc across Ireland, but the recovery in the property market is not being felt evenly across the country.

The number of home sales completed dropped in two counties only - Leitrim and Roscommon - with the rate of recovery in activity across all counties ranging wildly from 6pc in Carlow to 57pc in Limerick.

An analysis of the Property Price Register (www.propertypriceregister.ie) shows that last year, some 38,187 sales were completed. This compares with 29,806 in 2013 and represents an increase of 28pc.

In terms of sales numbers recorded, Dublin fares highest with 12,542 sales last year (up 21pc). The lowest number of transactions were recorded in Monaghan at 304. Even so, the latter represented an increase of 26pc albeit from a very low base.

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In contrast, the biggest percentage increase in activity was recorded in Limerick (up 57pc), followed by Westmeath (up 52pc) and Mayo (51pc).

There were falls in Roscommon and Leitrim, down 5pc and 6pc respectively.

The data is gleaned from the Property Price Register, established in September 2012 and aimed at bringing some transparency to a market which was beset with allegations of misleading prices being advertised and buyers being gazumped at the last minute just as sales were about to close.

The register is not intended as a property price index. Covering all residential property sales since January 1, 2010, it is designed to provide an "accurate" record of prices for homes sold at a particular date.

However that accuracy is sometimes lacking. The data is gleaned from stamp duty returns made to the Revenue Commissioners. However, errors do occur, a fact acknowledged by the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) which compiles the information.

For example, in 2014 there were a number of homes sold in Bray, Co Wicklow listed on the Dublin register. In other cases, the actual selling price is not fully stated, with sources saying that mistakes of up to €15,000 have been noted.

Research company Lotus Insight last year claimed to have found "numerous misspellings", wrong addresses and additional zeroes added to prices. But there are other shortcomings with the register too.

It does not give a description of the type of property including its size, number of bedrooms, the existence of a garden or other additional features, meaning it's hard to see what meaningful information is being provided apart from price.

All you get is one of three descriptions - second-hand dwelling house/apartment; new dwelling house/apartment greater than 125 square metres and new dwelling house/apartment greater than or equal to 38 square metres and less than 125 square metres.

That means that while a three-bedroom neighbouring home may appear to be worth far more than your modest abode, it doesn't take into account improvements made in your own home such as an extension or attic conversion.

Neither does the register state if the property has been recently upgraded or refurbished - meaning that occasions arise where a house has been sold for a relatively modest sum in one year, only to be flipped some time later at a much higher price.

Data about properties sold on Le Fanu Road in Ballyfermot, Dublin last year show the register's limitations.

Number 336 was sold on January 6 last year for €52,250. This was not the full market price, suggesting it was a part sale or someone bought a stake in the unit.

Number 172 was sold January 21 for €125,000, Number 308 on February 21 for €110,000, Number 162 for €120,000 on May 14, Number 350 on June 25 for €140,000 and Number 3 for €100,000 on November 18.

The condition and size of these properties cannot be ascertained from the register. All it provides is an indication of what homes on the road are fetching.

Last year, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald noted that 30,000 people visited the site every week, and that between January 2013 and June 2014 a total of 340 alleged errors were reported. These were all referred to the Revenue Commissioners for follow-up, she added.

How home hunters and buyers can use the register

Anyone thinking of buying or selling a house or apartment would be well advised to look at the property price register (www.propertypriceregister.ie) before submitting a bid or  putting the property up for sale.

Produced by the Property Services Regulatory Authority, which is tasked with regulating estate agents and management companies, the public register provides the price, address and date of sale of residential properties sold since January 2010, giving a useful guide to what homes in particular areas are fetching.

It means that instead of relying on estate agent valuations, or those posted online, buyers and sellers can see the actual price at which homes are trading hands.

The register is easy to use. On the homepage, there are two options on the right hand side - the first allows the user to search by address, the second allows the entire database to be downloaded by county, year and month.

It is possible to download all sales for a particular year in individual counties.

The information provided includes the date of sale, the address, postal code if applicable, the county, the price paid and whether or not the property is new, or second hand.

It also indicates if the full market price was paid.

A note on the website states that the register is not intended to be a price index. Instead, it is designed to "provide on an ongoing basis, accurate prices of residential properties purchased at a particular date".

That said, the register provides a useful source of information for buyers and sellers, particularly when linked with local knowledge of individual properties including size and condition.

Irish Independent