Westmeath: Westmeath poised for more price growth
Demand from workers who commute to north Kildare and to Dublin, combined with a shortage of three-bed homes, have driven up prices in the undervalued Westmeath residential market and will continue to do so throughout 2018.
Homes in Mullingar have proved especially popular with employees at Intel in Maynooth and HP in Leixlip, both of which are circa a 45-minute drive away along the M4. These buyers view the midlands town as a less frantic and cheaper option than Dublin, according to Aidan Davitt from Sherry FitzGerald Davitt & Davitt. Westmeath has also drawn buyers willing to make the more substantial 80-minute commute by rail to Dublin, rather than living in the more traffic-snarled greater Dublin area and spending time in busy traffic getting to and from the city centre.
"Last year we saw a good increase in prices, albeit coming from a low base, and it will be the same in 2018," Davitt says.
The most popular house type in Westmeath in 2017 was a three-bed semi in a town, compared to a four-bed semi a year earlier. Davitt says average prices for a three-bed semi likely climbed 10pc to €195,000, with growth accelerating to 13pc in 2019, due to a dearth of the house type.
"There is a shortage of three-bed semis so some buyers have been going for two-bed apartments instead," he says.
"First-time buyers have been the most active at the lower end of the market, but there is little movement in the middle of the market. At the higher end, people who have come out of negative equity and now have an improved financial position are moving from three and four-bed semis into detached homes."
Indeed, prices for four-bed detached homes in a town will likely jump by 8pc to €350,000 while five-bed versions may climb 6pc, according to Davitt's forecasts. Due to demand from first-time buyers, prices for two-bed apartments have surged 20pc and are set to increase by the same amount by the end of 2018.
While the cost of building has not yet matched sale prices, there are signs of renewed development activity, such as at Gleann Petit, a scheme of four-bed detached homes on the Old Dublin Road.
"The market has been reasonably fluid, with some new builds coming to market, but the tight supply in housing will still be a big factor in price rises, even though houses in Westmeath are still relatively cheap.
Demand from commuters may be stymied by the closure of the HP Inc manufacturing campus in Leixlip, which was put up for sale in the summer and could see the loss of 500 jobs. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the cloud computing and software business that split from Hewlett Packard in 2015, will be unaffected. However, returning emigrants, especially skilled tradesmen and nurses, are buoying demand from homes here and more than 100 high-tech jobs in robotics, systems engineering, and augmented and virtual reality are being created by Irish Manufacturing Research in Mullingar over the next three years.