Monday 23 October 2017

Obituary: Felicity Fox

Businesswoman and one of the best-known estate agents in Dublin

PIONEERING: Felicity Fox was known for her innate understanding of the property market and her good humour
PIONEERING: Felicity Fox was known for her innate understanding of the property market and her good humour
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Felicity Fox, a vivacious and pioneering female estate agent, died of a rare form of cancer at St Vincent's Private Hospital, at the age of 49.

She was well-known in Dublin auctioneering circles, mostly in the south of the city where she had developed a strong presence before and after setting up her own firm in 2004. According to property experts, she carved out a business in what was largely an unpopular and neglected market and made it her own.

She identified areas around Camden Street, Heytesbury Street and The Liberties which were largely populated by well-proportioned Victorian homes close to the city centre. In the years that followed, the business blossomed into a lucrative market in trendy cottages and designer red-brick homes stretching south through Portobello, Rathmines and Ranelagh, giving the agency that carries her name a very distinct brand image in the property market.

She was described in the days after her death on May 12 as "very special" and a "top-class estate agent who made the south central post codes her own".

Felicity Fox was born in Belfast, the only daughter and youngest child of dentist Gerry Fox and his wife Mai. Her father died when she was young and her mother moved back to her hometown of Bundoran, Co Donegal, with her three children, Paul, Michael, and Felicity.

The family ran a local pub called The Fox's Lair and developed the business into a thriving bar, restaurant and guest house, where Felicity soon learned the art of customer service, working behind the bar and generally helping out in the business.

After attending local schools, she left to study property and auctioneering at the Institute of Technology on Bolton Street and, after working in a small Dublin agency, joined Douglas Newman Good (DNG) fitting seamlessly into the hectic business and social life of an up-and-coming auctioneer.

In the 1990s she focused on what has been described, in auctioneer terms, as the unfashionable area of the city, selling to clients who could in some cases build up a property portfolio by buying small houses - some of which they were able to rent out at rates that paid more than the mortgages they were charged at the time.

While working for DNG, she met Edmund Douglas who worked on the commercial side of the business and, according to colleagues, he wooed her for eight years before they were married on New Year's Eve, 2004 and settled in Herbert Avenue, Dublin 4.

While many other auctioneering firms were consolidating in the market or linking up with UK-based affiliates during the property boom, Felicity Fox went against the trend and set up her own business later that year.

She developed a "boutique-style" agency with a distinct brand which developed a reputation in Dublin 8. Many people, both buyers and sellers, who dealt with her over the years remarked on her friendly style, her attention to detail and her determination to get the best prices for the properties on her books. "She was also very good fun," said one.

She had a good eye, both for houses and for styling them to maximum effect. Her agency was small and nimble enough to survive the economic downturn and the catastrophic fall in house prices which decimated staff at some of the larger auctioneering firms.

This left her well prepared for the upswing in the property cycle that followed. "Since the recovery she has been developing a strong brand and expanding and her agency was in expansion mode when she fell ill in 2015," said a property insider.

Gregarious and social, she enjoyed playing golf and the company of many friends in the business. But she pushed the property rather than herself and inspired some other women to strike out on their own in what had once been a male-dominated industry, especially at ownership level.

Felicity Fox suffered from a rare form of cancer and despite treatment at the Mayo Clinic in the United States and St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin her condition deteriorated over the last 18 months.

While colleagues were aware of her illness, few apart from close friends and family, realised how serious it was.

Felicity Fox's funeral took place in the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Merrion Road, Dublin on May 16 and was followed by a Mass of commemoration in Bundoran, Co Donegal, on Saturday, May 20.

She is survived by her husband Edmund her mother Mai and older brothers Paul and Michael.

Sunday Independent

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