House-hunters look North for cheaper homes
Dublin workers make big savings by renting in Newry but it means a daily two-hour commute
Thousands of Dublin workers have moved north of the Border to get affordable accommodation.
The influx of southern workers to towns in the North has been so large that it has led to a shortage of houses and apartments in some areas.
The lack of supply of private rental accommodation in and around Dublin and corresponding rent increases - which rose by 9.3pc nationally this year to an average of €964 per month - have led to the stampede of workers from the Republic seeking cheaper digs north of the Border over the past year.
According to the Northern Irish property website Propertypal.com, based in Belfast, the number of people living in the Republic seeking or inquiring about accommodation in towns like Newry, Co Down and the surrounding area has increased by almost 500pc over the past year alone.
The number of online searches for property in the Newry/Mourne area just north of the Border accounted for just 0.68pc of online traffic by people in the Republic between January and November 25, 2014 but jumped to 2.83pc for the same period this year, said Propertpal.com owner, Paul Anthony.
"For one region alone that's extraordinary and it's actually made me think we should change our marketing strategy," he told the Sunday Independent.
Cormac Gough, a property letting agent with Collins & Collins estate agents in Newry, estimates about 2,000 workers from the Republic are now renting accommodation in the Newry area alone based on estimates that up to 20pc of local renters are now from south of the Border.
The lack of supply in the south is one reason, but so are the sky-high rents being charged little more than an hours' drive away.
"The Dublin prices are extortionate. It's just not sustainable for anyone," he said. Mr Gough now pays €1,800 a month for a modern two-bed apartment in the highly sought-after IFSC complex adjacent to Dublin's Connolly station.
But an apartment of similar size and specifications in Newry is going for less than half that at €850 per month (stg£600), he said.
A four-bed semi-detached house located in a "nice" housing estate in Newry with an asking rent of €780 (stg£550), was rented out within hours of being advertised in Wednesday's Newry Reporter newspaper, according to the rental agent. "It's outrageous. The minute the paper went out, it went right away," he said.
As a result of unprecedented demand, apartments and other rental accommodation in the town - especially in the much sought-after Dublin Road area near the exit to the A1/M1 motorway - are being snapped up within days of being advertised, Mr Gough said, adding there's currently a two to three month waiting list for vacancies in that area alone.
During the downturn, there was very little traffic heading south, he said.
But now that the economy has turned around, the Dublin Road is jammed at 6am with commuters from the south as well as Northern residents working south of the border.
The recent influx of foreign workers from Europe working in the border counties is also adding to low vacancy rate, he added.
Meanwhile, a ticket agent at Newry train station said he also noticed a surge in the number of daily commuters taking the Belfast Enterprise train which stops in Newry, Dundalk, Drogheda and Dublin over the past year, noting many of about 70 "regulars" have southern accents.
Irish Rail, Bus Eireann and Translink, which runs both the Northern Ireland rail and commuter bus service, have all also reported increases in cross-border commuter traffic.