New point of view

Thu, Mar 7, 2013, 00:00

Today’s potential buyers are keen but cautious – and willing to hold out for the prefect property, or a bargain

At one point on Saturday morning last there were five buggies in the front garden of 6 Prospect Terrace in Sandymount. Inside were mostly couples with small children – typically two, a tiny baby and a toddler – all traipsing up and down the stairs viewing the four bed, end-of-terrace house for sale by Sherry FitzGerald for €695,000.

According to the agent, Laura Conway, 56 parties “walked through” during the open viewing and by the end of it she had run out of brochures and was taking names for follow up. That’s a lot of potential buyers and the house, which is an executor’s sale and would benefit from renovation and updating – it has a BER rating of just E1 – was on view for an hour.

Around the corner at 36A Beach Road, Lisney’s John O’Sullivan was looking chipper. It was the first open viewing of the three-bed plus attic room terraced house which is for sale for €525,000. It had been a busy hour but already he had an on-the-spot offer of the asking price. Built in 2006 on a corner site, and in walk-in condition with a B2 BER, it has been a well-looked after rental.

O’Sullivan had nearly 50 parties, fewer buggies, mostly young couples looking for their first house and some single buyers. Later, he reassured a buyer, a woman in her early 30s who was keen to show the house to her parents, that it would again be on open view next Saturday, but you’d have to think that with the asking price now achieved, a higher bid will be needed and that the bidding has only just started.

All this activity on a bright Saturday morning in March will mystify and further deflate many house sellers, particularly anyone who, after several price drops, is still trying to shift a semi in Dublin’s commuter belt; one bedroom apartment, anywhere; a Section 23 holiday home, or a large country pile. It could also be seen as further proof that lack of supply in south Dublin’s older suburbs is leading to the return of competitive bidding and a recovery in that sliver of the market.

Nice but expensive

At 36A Beach Road, a couple in their early 30s – househunters rarely want to give their names – and looking for their first home were on their third viewing of the day and it wasn’t even noon.

They’d been in houses in Blackrock and Rathgar before arriving in Sandymount and they found 36A “nice but expensive”. They’ve been searching for months and had gone sale agreed on one house but that had fallen through.

Last month they phoned an agent to put a bid in on another house in Sandymount, which was for sale in the early €400,000s. They offered 10 per cent less than the asking price, as is commonly advised on property blogs – “nothing silly or anything” – only to be told that there were now three people bidding on the house and it had moved far from the asking price. They didn’t even leave their name – “no point”.

We were joined on the landing by another young couple of similar age. They too were renting, but keen to buy. Hearing that an offer had already been made on the house, the man, who like his wife, works in finance in a corporate law firm said: “All this proves is that we haven’t learned a thing from the housing bust, paying that sort of money just doesn’t make sense. It’s hype. If you look at it, this is 140sq m for well over half a million euro. Shrewsbury Road would be cheaper.”

“It’s basic economics,” his wife reminded him gently, obviously used to the conversation. “It’s supply and demand.”

‘You get choosy’

Around the corner at 6 Prospect Terrace a couple with two children were in the paved back garden working out the orientation. Mostly west-facing, they decided, with the experience of people who spend a lot of Saturdays doing this sort of thing. They have been searching for over a year.

They started their married life in their own apartment; it’s in negative equity so they rented that out when baby number one came along and have been renting a townhouse ever since. It is getting small now that number two has arrived and they feel it’s time to buy a family home. But a year-long hunt?

“What happens is you get choosy. We want a house with character and that rules out a lot of places. Also houses in Sandymount don’t come up very often which is why we were interested in this, especially at this price.”

Like others I chatted to, they were keen to buy, but cautious. House hunting had made them more reluctant to jump in and gave them a longer wish list. Their story was replicated in a half-a dozen conversations I had with viewers – buyers now are much more chatty than they were in 2005 when I did a similar article and found them nearly pathologically nervous of being overheard, in case another buyer might use the information to do a better deal.

An older couple were upstairs peering at the glimpse of the sea from the box bay window. “It’s got to the point that we have seen so many houses that I want the conservatory from one house, the kitchen from another, and so on. No one house is really doing it for me.”

This woman and her husband have been searching for two years and would be prepared to take on a house that needed work. They sold their Rathgar home in 2010 to downsize, have been renting in Sandymount since and it’s where they now want to live but there’s so little on.

“We want two good bedrooms and a study each,” she said, and, having seen one too many Celtic Tiger makeovers, would prefer “not to have to pay for someone else’s bad taste. This process has made us very picky.”

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