Sunday 21 January 2018

Trading places

Mark Keenan explains how freak market conditions mean that Dublin semi owners can now "trade down" to an historic country house estate.

The big switch has been made possible by a perfect storm of market conditions which have recently caused the values of larger south Dublin semis to bypass those of cheaper Irish country estates – both property types now range just below the €600,000 mark.

The contrasting fortunes of rural and city property markets through the years have closed a €1m plus price gap between semis and entry level country estates over the five years since the crash.

It means that many vendors of city semi can now "trade down" to an historic country mansion in its own grounds – albeit one in need of investment.

Estate agents who specialise in country property say they can't remember this ever happening before. Even in the 1980's when there was no money to refurbish big country homes, the value gap still remained substantial.

It means that the owners of a large semi in Rathfarnham can sell up and use the proceeds to acquire a seven-bedroom historic home on 28 acres in Co Offaly and still be left with enough change to buy a vintage Land Rover.

Robert Ganly of Ganly Walters says: "I have been selling country estate homes for 40 years and I can't ever remember this type of value parity happening before.

"The Dublin market has obviously been the first to recover while big country houses – particularly those in need of work – have remained pretty stagnant and have not yet experienced the revival of interest now being experienced at the top end of the country homes market."

The shortage of supply, which has pushed up city home values – sometimes by more than 1pc per month – has reduced the price difference substantially through the last year. This compounds the fact that city semis shed less value overall in the crash: between 40pc and 55pc of their boom era values compared with 70pc shed by country estates in need of investment.

Unlike D4 trophy homes, which also shed up to 70pc, country estates in need of investment have yet to show signs of recovery.

This is partly down to the banks, which have shut down lending for large scale refurbishments of residential properties – some of these 4,000 sq ft abodes would require a €200,000 upgrade.

The other problem is the current buyer's market for country estates which has seen mansion hunters demanding a "walk in" purchase – as evidenced by the slew of high end country homes bought in the last year by largely US based buyers.

Increasing demand and pricing has meant that since the summer, the values of larger semis in the capital have passed out cheaper country estate homes.

It means that many city semi owners who sell could move straight into the former rural seats of earls, duchesses, rectors and even the family home of a former British prime minister.

Owners of homes like the five bedroom semi at Willowbank Drive in Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 – currently for sale through Douglas Newman Good of Terenure – could use the proceeds to acquire any of the four country piles described here.

In 2006 this type of Rathfarnham home would likely have been valued at around €950,000 compared with a tag of around €2m for most of the country estates described.Today the semi is worth more.

To show what's possible with the proceeds of a big Dublin semi, we took the €595,000 asking price for our semi at Rathfarnham and went country estate shopping for historic homes with lands attached.

Here are four country mansions – each available for less than the price of our Rathfarnham semi:

The Duchess's Birthplace:


Carnelly House at Clarecastle near Ennis in County Clare is the historic seat of the Stamer family. Built in the 1730's, it sits on 74 acres and was the birthplace of Elizabeth, Duchess of Rovigo who did her socialising in the courts of Paris.

The house was constructed in the Queen Anne style to a design by the architect Francis Bindon. With three floors above ground level, the part red brick mansion has nine bedrooms, five of them ensuite, and this house is in particular renowned for the splendour of its drawing room which was stuccoed by the renowned Francini family of craftsmen who had to move in and live there while doing the work.

There are four very large reception rooms excluding the grand entrance hall and this house also comes with an unusually large Victorian walled garden – once used to grow food for the owners and their extensive number of domestic staff. The sale includes the original gate lodge and a series of outbuildings in need of recovery.

The house will require a good deal of restoration work to see it through for another 300 years. Joint agents Ganly Walters (01-6653924) and GVM (061-4135222).

Big In Birr


The Little Brosna River runs through the 28 acre grounds of Riverstown House in Birr, a Georgian country home with seven bedrooms, or eight if the impressive first floor drawing room is converted into an uber bed chamber. There are four reception rooms on the ground floor in this property which sits cheek by jowl with the heritage town.

Riverstown also comes with a walled garden and the house has been owned by the same family since the 1930's. This home will need a good amount of work to bring it into the 21st Century.

The agents are Goffs Country (045-981048).

Rectory In Wexford:


Just one step down from the homes of the landed gentry are those built for their clergy as demonstrated by The Old Rectory in Killanne, outside Enniscorthy in County Wexford.

Constructed in 1798, a stirring year for that county, the house has six bedrooms and the basement alone spans the floor space of two average semis.

The house comes with eight and a half acres of land, largely in railed paddocks and is approached by a long tree lined avenue.

The main receptions have period marble chimney pieces and elaborate ceiling stucco work and are lit by 12 ft high Georgian windows. The agents for the sale are Colliers International (01-6333700).

A Prime Minister's Seat:


William Petty, first Marquess of Lansdowne became Prime Minister under his promotional title, the Earl of Shelburne. He negotiated the independence of the USA from Britain on behalf of the latter in the 1780's.

Petty originally lived between Dublin and Rahan Lodge, the 1740 built family seat at Killina, near Tullamore in County Offaly which is narrow fronted but deceptively deep with accommodation including seven bedrooms and two large reception rooms with all the usual period details.

It is however light on land with just over 2 acres attached. The house is in need of some upgrading but has been well kept otherwise.

The selling agent is Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes (01-2376300)

Irish Independent

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