Signs of life on the western front
Galway property prices took the greatest hit in the recession, but there are signs of a budding recovery both in the city and the wider province
House sales in Galway are on the up, based on the latest property price register, having increased by 17 per cent in 2012, and up 18.3 per cent on 2010. DNG’s Martin O’Connor reduced his staff in 2009 but is now taking on agents. “We are seeing a lot of probate properties and holiday homes coming on the market being snapped up by Irish returning from the UK,” he says. “Buyers have much bigger deposits saved, some 20 to 30 per cent as compared to the boom when they barely had 8 per cent.”
Colm O’Donnellan of O’Donnellan Joyce says his sales in 2012 exceeded those of 2011 and 2010 combined: “Prices didn’t change that much, but the ending of mortgage interest relief in December saw a surge of purchases prior to that for first-time buyers looking for three- to four-bed semis in the suburbs.”
“Cash buyers are coming to the auctions,” he says. “We sold 100 houses last year at auction to a mix of investors and residents. Houses in rural areas are thankfully starting to sell due to their price – you can buy a house now for substantially less than it would cost to build.”
In areas such as Oranmore prices have tumbled due to oversupply. According to Brian McMahon of DNG, there is “unbelievable value at the moment and first-time buyers are now cherry-picking. It is sad though: as the banks are tidying up their books we are seeing a lot of work from distressed property”.
In the city, Tony Kavanagh of Sherry FitzGerald has also seen an upturn over the past eight months. “Purchasers are more confident now, and there has been quite strong activity,” he says. “Property has been selling much quicker and we have seen some multiple bidding.”
Supply is an issue, especially in desirable areas such as Salthill and Taylors Hill. “As many properties in these areas have no mortgages, people are sitting on them with no pressure to sell.” In Bushy Park, where sites in 2006 to 2008 cost up to €1 million, large half-built houses sell for about €500,000.
According to Gerry Coffey,expat bargain hunters are attracted to north Galway because of the accessibility of Knock airport. There, holiday homes are being bought for €50,000.
Galway’s 2012 sales accounted for 43 per cent of total Connacht sales. Other areas in the region are also showing signs of recovery. Angela Keegan of myhome.iesays Galway took the largest drop in asking prices since the boom, at a trough of 59 per cent, “but at least this decline has eased, and it is showing the same trends as other cities with its recovery”.
Galway has fared well over the past 12 months and agents are positive about the city’s activity. Rural areas are slower, but it is a buyer’s market, with good value available.