WITH the big city property markets of Dublin, Galway and Cork heating up once again, trophy home hunters are out in force with stashed millions in their back pockets seeking to bag a luxury pad in one of Ireland's most sought after streets.
Those lucky enough to get in at the bottom of the Dublin market two years ago were able to scoop up Ireland's top abodes for 70pc less than they typically sold for at the height of the recent boom.
It is already likely that they have doubled their money with trophy homes in the most sought after leafy lanes rising in value fastest since the capital's market heated up again.
In many cases the shrewd early birds found themselves picking through the ashes of the fallen property empires of boom-era millionaires, down on their luck and selling their prime bricks and mortar at the floor of the market cycle in order to pay off their debts.
Those who got in right at the bottom managed to buy homes on Ireland's most sought after streets for as little as €1.5m – small change for properties which once fetched €12m to €15m and even right up to €58m – paid by Gayle Dunne for Walford on Shrewsbury Road in 2005 before the market collapsed and she sold it on again for €14m.
Today's trophy home market, particularly in the capital, is seething with wealthy overseas based Irish buyers eager to snap up a home before prices go through the roof again.
So where are Ireland's most prestigious and exclusive streets to be found? In what order do they rank in terms of exclusivity, the quality of the residences and the top-deck prices you'd pay for the privilege of owning a home there?
To reveal Ireland's top 10 most exclusive streets in order of price and demand, we talked to three of the country's top estate agents, each experienced in selling top-end homes on these streets.
Our evaluating panel included auctioneer Simon Ensor of Sherry FitzGerald, seller of Walford in 2005 and the auctioneer responsible for selling most of Ireland's top stream homes in the years since then. We asked Keith Lowe, CEO of Douglas Newman Good, boss of one of Ireland's largest estate agency networks with decades of experience selling top-end homes to give us his top 10 and finally we engaged Stephen Day of Lisney, an agency which has long specialised in top-end Dublin abodes.
We asked them to select their 10 most exclusive streets in order of ascendancy and then we took each of the three listings and allocated points to each street, allocating 10 points to a number one choice, 9 to a second preference and so on.
Our three experts named 14 streets in their top 10 ranking sheets and generally differed in their views on the lower ranking places, but there was unanimous agreement from them on the number one, number two and number three streets in Ireland
So here, for the first time, according to the country's top three exclusive home experts, are the country's top 10 most exclusive streets listed from 10 up to number one and followed by a top three ranking each for Cork and Galway, the country's two other rising city property markets.
10th Place - Kerrymount Avenue
Kerrymount Avenue in Foxrock, Dublin 18 was home to Samuel Beckett and today it's the preferred trophy home location for developers who many believe bought both a house and a possible future development site, thanks to the large gardens in this area which is also home to the exclusive Foxrock Golf Club.
Located off Brighton Road, often mistaken as the area's top address thanks to a more frequent number of sales, Kerrymount has been the focus of numerous actions by banks and Nama in recent years eager to recoup money from the street's stricken developer residents who have included Joe O'Reilly, Paddy Shovelin and John Flynn.
The O'Reilly abode, which ended up at the centre of a Nama action in 2012 shows what the street has to offer - it spans 10,500 sq ft or 10 times the size of an average family home, it has a 20 metre swimming pool, a home cinema, a gym, a games room, and a hot tub.
The property register shows that Kerrymount residents cling resolutely to their title deeds even when the banks and Nama come calling – just one property has sold here since January 2010 – Innisfallen, a 1920s six-bed house on an acre, was sold at the bottom of the market by a developer after a failed attempt to build on it and made €2.25m. It is likely that some of the street's better homes could go from €4m upwards, if anyone could get the residents to sell that is.
9th Place - Ceanchor Road
The poshest street on Dublin's northside and the only north Dublin stretch to appear in the top 10 is Ceanchor Road in Howth, home to some of Ireland's most extraordinary homes which are for the most part, hidden behind high sets of electronic gates and located at the end of leafy driveways. Those who buy homes on Ceanchor hold on to them.
Most of the last sales activity took place there in the early years of the boom and just one sale has been recorded here on the property price register in the last four and a half years – that of Windward, a property which changed hands for €1.8m in mid-2012 and quite probably a bargain at that. By today's standards homes here would go for between €4m and €8m.
It's common for these to have sites of eight to 10 acres with tennis courts, swimming pools and gardens open to extraordinary elevated sea views from the southern side of the Howth peninsula.
Ceanchor is popular for the space, the views but most of all for the privacy and ease of security with high walls protecting the residents from intrusion and prying eyes.
Ceanchor, which runs from Carrickbrack Road to the Bailey has included among its past and current residents the model Vogue Williams who grew up here and power couple John McColgan and Moya Doherty who ended up buying two properties here, acquiring the Tansey for €4.92m in 2000 and selling it on soon after to spend large on their other Ceanchor abode, Dane's Hollow.
Jennifer Guinness sold her home on Ceanchor for €8m in 2008 as the market was falling fast. The home of disgraced solicitor Michael Lynn was sold by court order in the same year for €4.9m. And Ceanchor is the road where Hollywood superstar Robert Redford rented a quiet house in 2011 from which to write his autobiography. The street has also been home to the O'Flaherty family of Mercedes dealership fame.
8th Place - Avoca Avenue
"This is an immensely private road with large detached properties on generous sites and within a short walk of Blackrock," says Stephen Day of Lisney. Greenan, a five-bed modern home with a swimming pool, gym and sauna was recently brought to market here for €2.5m, demonstrating a typical price for this exclusive south county Dublin stretch.
Present and past residents have included Marlborough Recruitment founder and close Bertie Ahern associate David McKenna.
7th Place - Cross Avenue Blackrock
Cross Avenue only just pipped Avoca to 7th place – only one point behind – and chosen in the top 10 of two of our three top end property experts. Famous for being the home of Eamon de Valera, in recent years residents have clung on to their period homes and extensive grounds with grim determination.
The big reminder to us all that it existed at all in terms of property sales was the revelation that Ardagh CEO Niall Wall last year acquired Glencar, a two-storey over garden level home on Cross Avenue, from retired businessman Peter Ledbetter for a whopping €5.25m.
Last month news emerged that developer Myles Crofton has declared for bankruptcy in the UK – he hit the headlines here in 2004 when his firm bought Chesterfield House on Cross Avenue, along with its adjoining wooded grounds, for a massive €47m, making it the second most expensive house to sell in Ireland after Walford on Shrewsbury Road.
6th Place Coliemore Road Dalkey
We're into the Dalkey/Killiney Rockbroker belt to seafront Coliemore Road where the famous residents include the film director Jim Sheridan who placed his seafront modern abode Martha's Vineyard on the market for €8m.
Further along, the Victorian Cliff Castle, owned by former Blacktie boss and Dragon's Den star Niall O'Farrell, has been reported to have been rented out at €10,000 per week.
Broadcaster Vincent Browne sold his seaside six-bedroom home Atlanta on Coliemore in 2011 for €2.6m and during the boom years, Elsinore, the period house where U2 recorded one of their albums was offered for €5.7m. One of Ireland's grandest homes, Victoria House on two acres, is located on Coliemore. The house (see main picture), which has a large fairytale tower as its focal design point was offered for sale at auction in 2001 by the Lenehan hardware dynasty but failed to sell. It was reported to have changed hands later in 2004 for €5.5m.
Simon Ensor of Sherry FitzGerald adds: "When it comes to this area we think primarily of two roads, Vico and Coliemore, but when it comes down to it Coliemore's sea access and its proximity to the village gives it the edge over Vico which some believe is a little bit isolated despite the great views."
5th Place - Park Avenue Sandymount
The Dublin 4 seaside Village's most prized stretch has homes valued over €3m. Residents here have included businessman Patrick Halpin and the late publican Hugh O'Regan who made and lost a fortune. The street has a mix of Edwardian, pre and postwar homes which often come with substantial sites attached to them.
Unlike many other streets which appear in Ireland's most exclusive top 10, Park Avenue's homes come to market steadily with almost 30 changing hands in the last four years.
4th Place Temple Gardens
The first placing in our top 10 streets from Dublin 6 comes with Temple Gardens in Rathmines, a small and extraordinarily exclusive road of less than 23, mainly Victorian and Edwardian red-brick homes.
Temple Gardens runs between Palmerston Road and Merton Road where the last clutch of properties to sell included number 18 which changed hands for €4.5m while the most recent disposal was a 3,200 sq ft red brick semi at number 23 – by no means among the better properties on the road – for €4.5m.
This was sold late last year after it had been placed on the market for €3.45m. The house had been owned by Fine Gael TD Liz O'Donnell and her husband Michael Carson SC who acquired it in 1995 for around €570,000.
The €1m plus markup on the asking price shows that there is a now a serious demand once again among top earners to get into this enclave.
3rd Place Temple Road
"Temple Road is widely regarded as the Shrewsbury Road of Dublin 6 with some breathtaking large period homes of distinction and many of them sitting on very large gardens," says Keith Lowe, CEO of Douglas Newman Good.
"This is the finest tree-lined road in Dublin 6 with attractive low-cut granite walls and mature hedging offering great privacy together with wide sites and two- storey family homes.
"A huge benefit is the ease of access to the city centre due to the Luas," says Stephen Day of Lisney.
Along with Sherry FitzGerald's Simon Ensor, our three experts were unanimous in their decisions that the leafy wide street of 50-plus homes in Dartry, Dublin 6 is Ireland's third most exclusive address. Sherry FitzGerald is itself currently seeking €4.95m for Thorndale, a detached home of 5,330 sq ft.
Most of this street was constructed in the mid-1800s for eminent Dublin merchant families like the Jacobs of biscuit fame.
Running between Dartry Road and Richmond Avenue, today the road includes the residences of both the Brazilian and Nigerian ambassadors.
2nd Place - Ailesbury Road
Now we're firmly in the Dublin 4 embassy belt in what is without doubt Ireland's most cosmopolitan street.
Ailesbury Road, contains very substantial Victorian and Edwardian homes as well as some more recent additions and includes embassies from China, Pakistan, Poland, Lithuania and Switzerland as well as the homes of ambassadors from France, Hungary, Pakistan, Russia, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and Norway. The street is substantial, containing more than 100 larger homes.
The most expensive house ever to be placed on the market in Ireland is number 53, the French ambassador's residence, offered in 2008 for €60m. Today, as one of the best two properties on the street, it's likely to be worth closer to €15m.
But even 'scuzzier' properties along here are in high demand. "A mid-terrace red-brick in need of renovation still commands in excess of €3m," says Stephen Day of Lisney. "A big attraction is the predominantly red-brick, semi-detached homes which have truly magnificent interconnecting reception rooms."
This road has seen a flurry of sales activity in the last two years in the €2m to €4m range as foreign based and local Irish entrepreneurs take advantage of bankruptcy and financial pressure on longtime residents, many of whom were involved in property development and have found themselves in debt. Six substantial properties sold here last year from February to November.
This street was where the current property revival in Dublin started with buyers moving in to pick up extreme bargains at the rock-bottom of the curve – properties such as number 10 which changed hands on the lowest ebb of the cycle for €1.1m.
Headline sales include the purchase of number 22/24 for €10m by PJ McManus in 2011. The 16,000 sq ft mansion, estimated by some agents to be one of the two best on the road, includes a home cinema and famously, a retractable glass dancefloor which rolls back to reveal a heated swimming pool underneath.
The street also hit the headlines last year when the new owners of Coolbawn, the former home of Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely, discovered €200,000 hidden behind a bath in the luxury property. McFeely since vowed to regain his fortune and move back again to Ailesbury Road.
Among the sales last year was that of number 18, the former home of ex- Taoiseach Albert Reynolds which was purchased for €4.5m, a fraction of the €15m scooped by the Longford politician when he disposed of it at the top of the market in 2007.
Number 1 - Shrewsbury Road
Ireland's most exclusive Street bar none runs from Merrion Road to Ailesbury Road and contains just 23 residences.
The game of Monopoly has long reflected the situation accurately, making the purple property Ireland's most expensive alongside the second contender Ailesbury Road.
The most famous sale to take place here is, of course, that of Walford, a red- brick detached house which was acquired by Gayle Dunne, wife of troubled developer Sean Dunne, for €58m in 2005 after Mr Dunne, once known as 'The Baron of Ballsbridge' made an agreement to present his wife with €100m to ensure financial independence in return "for her love and affection".
The price made Walford the most expensive house ever to sell in Ireland and made it one of the top 10 prices paid for a home globally that year.
Despite it becoming rundown and vandalised, the Edwardian pile was sold on again for €14m early last year by a mystery buyer.
Mr Dunne has denied that he is behind the purchase. The new owners have applied to extend the house substantially to just under 10,000 sq ft, making it one of the largest residences on Ireland's most exclusive stretch.
Property casualties along the street in the property crash included financier Derek Quinlan who bought a house here for €8.5m at the peak of the market when prices of €10m to €15m were the norm. The property was later sold for €5.2m. But even before the Dublin market heated up again, significant sales were taking place on Shrewsbury – number 9, Lissadell sold for €6m in October 2012 and number 6, Derrymore reaped €7m back in 2011 before the price revival kicked in.
'Dragons' Den' star and Black Tie chain store operator Niall Farrell had been seeking a buyer for about four years for his seven-bedroom detached house, Thorndene, on Shrewsbury Road.
He had initially been asking €14m for the property but reduced the asking price to €8m about two years ago and finally sold it for €5m. The swish home was fitted out with no expense spared and includes a luxurious swimming pool room.
It has been estimated that €1bn overall was wiped off property values on Shrewsbury and Ailesbury Roads alone in the property crash. But as the property price register and recent deals show, values here are very much on an upwards curve once again.