NO sooner has a property been listed for rent in the offices of Gillian Hayes Property Management, than the inbox begins to ping. They come thick and fast. Queries from young families, single people, Wexford natives, Dubs seeking a move away from the capital and even expressions of interest from abroad.
In all her years working in the business, Gillian says she has never quite seen anything like this. A combination of a shortage of private rented accommodation and a massive demand is placing increasing pressure on the market in Wexford and is causing desperation among people who are perhaps struggling to save enough for a deposit on a house of their own.
"There’s definitely a shortage of properties for rent, but the demand has never been as high in 25 years either,” Gillian says. “Obviously, there’s always a local demand for rented accommodation, but since Covid there’s been a mass exodus out of Dublin. With remote working now an option for many, I think a lot of people have had time to re-think their lifestyle.”
The result is that any time a property is listed for rent in Wexford, it’s pandemonium.
"We’re getting around six thousand hits on the website every day,” Gillian revealed. “A lot of our listings might only be up for ten or fifteen minutes and they're gone. We could get 300 or 400 email inquiries within the first hour of a property being listed for rent online.”
It seems that Wexford has very much become a sought after location to live and work.
"We’re even getting inquiries from other countries,” Gillian said. “We’re getting a lot of people who want to settle in Wexford from South Africa and Brazil. Believe it or not, one of the reasons for this is that when you Google the sunniest place in Ireland, Wexford comes up.”
In some ways, the demand for rental properties from outside the county took a lot of people by surprise.
"We’ve never seen this kind of pressure coming from outside before,” Gillian explains. “It was really unexpected. When the pandemic hit, we thought, like everyone else, we’d be quiet for a while, but about a month into Covid demand was through the roof for property in Wexford. It was so unexpected.”
Naturally enough, with supply short and demand high, the cost of renting properties in Wexford has gotten higher and higher.
"It’s my job to get the strongest rents I can for my clients and when demand is higher than supply, obviously rents go up,” Gillian said. “What we’re seeing is people coming down from Dublin where they’re used to paying very high rents and they can well afford it. To be honest, it's not really even about money at the minute though. People just can’t find properties to rent regardless of the price. It’s impacting all walks of life too. We had a doctor who commuted from Dublin to Wexford for a long time because he simply couldn’t find a place to rent.”
With house prices currently soaring too, a considerable amount of landlords are opting to cash in on their investment, leaving renters in dire straits.
"Things are getting worse without a doubt,” Gillian lamented. “You can sense the desperation in people who are looking for property to rent. They know they’re up against hundreds of others applying for the same house. It’s really tough at the minute. Until they start building more houses, this won’t be solved. We need to get building. I don’t think people fully realise the the huge demand in Wexford.
"Security of tenure is the biggest issue for renters. I don’t know what the solution is, perhaps giving tax breaks to landlords to continue to rent their properties for longer periods is the answer? Regardless, this situation is definitely getting worse.”