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'There was never as little property on the market'

Shortage of houses in region likely to add to challenge of delivering on Government's new rural policy


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The availability of homes for sale in north and mid Cork is at an all-time low, a number of local auctioneers have confirmed to The Corkman.

A combination of factors including the close-down of house building due to the COVID restrictions and uncertainty over the future, post-lockdown, is playing its part in cutting off the supply of houses in the regions.

One estate agent went as far as to say that there were no houses to move into for people the Government expected to move from the city to rural areas in order to fulfill a key commitment in the new policy, Our Rural Future, launched just last week.

In the Our Rural Future policy, the Government committed to assigning 20 per cent of public servants now stationed in Dublin to work from home in rural areas by the end of this year. This would increase on a phased basis over the next five years. According to Derry Walsh of Sherry Fitzgerald Walsh in Charleville, properties are very scarce at present.

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"There's not been a private development in the region for 15 years, I'd say," he remarked.

He cited the rising cost of building as another factor in putting developers off building new houses.

A related factor is the difficulty in getting planning permission for developments in the Duhallow area.

As for the people the Government is hoping to relocate from Dublin to rural areas such as north and mid Cork, "The houses won't be there for those people," he said. The view from Mallow isn't too different as John O'Connell, the founder of O'Connell Auctioneers, said "There was never so little property on the market - there's nothing new being built."

While some people say there's a problem with derelict buildings in the area, this is disputed by the Mallow auctioneer:

"Whatever's for sale is sold."

Mr O'Connell, who's been in the real-estate business for 45 years, said the firm was getting far more enquiries than there were properties available:

"Supply is the only problem - it's away back from last year."

One of the issues which has to be factored in is the uncertainty around how work will look after the pandemic ends and the restrictions are lifted.

"Will people go back to their workplaces; how will work look like in the future?" he asked.

The pandemic is certainly playing a role in the property market. There's evidence emerging that banks are rescinding mortgages they had previously offered to people who are now on the Pandemic Unemployment Benefit.

There are issues also about the level of wages in north and mid Cork, which are making it difficult for people to get mortgages which can put them on the property ladder in the area.

The supply shortage means prices are going in one direction - up.

The uncertainty around the future is also leading to people to hold on to property they might want to sell. "Will there be a recession - or will it be boom?" Mr O'Connell said.

In the Múscraí Gaeltacht and mid Cork, the situation is similarly bleak for prospective buyers.

Mícheál Creedon is the local auctioneer and estate agent, and he says properties are very scarce in the region.

Last year, 10 houses in a development in Baile Mhic Íre he had on the books were sold to a housing association, and since then there's been very little property for sale.

"This is not just here - they're scarce all over the place," he said.

The uncertainty about the future and its impact on peoples' ability to get mortgages is also a huge factor in cooling down the property market.

The lack of supply has the potential to create a spike in prices if and when the pandemic ends and restrictions are lifted, allowing people to avail of opportunities to move from urban dwellings to rural locations.

If and when the relaxation of restrictions happens and the Government begins to focus on implementing its new rural policy, the property shortage will add to the challenge, it would seem.