Family homes to go under hammer

Apartments and investment properties have been the norm at Allsop’s auctions but family homes in need of renovation are starting to make an appearance


The photos of the ivy-clad, sun-dappled Phoenix Hill on Chapelizod Road, Dublin, make the house look almost dreamy but, as anyone who has bought an old house in need of renovation knows, buying without getting a thorough survey can become a nightmare.

It’s particularly important when buying at auction – once your bid is accepted, you sign contracts there and then, legally committingto go through with the sale.

“You need to get under the skin of a house,” advises Robert Hoban of Allsops, whose auction next week includes several houses in need of renovation that are likely to be of interest to buyers in search of a well-located family home in Dublin. “People always need to do their homework.”

Viewings at Phoenix Hill have been more crowded than usual, with several prospective buyers bringing not just their surveyor but a builder too.

The Georgian house, in need of top-to-bottom renovation, is on an acre next to the Phoenix Park with views of the River Liffey. It was last lived in in 1999. The reserve is €350,000 which, when you consider the location and that it also comes with two (equally dilapidated) cottages on the land, seems modest.

Taking on a major renovation can be daunting for someone who has never done it before, says Simon Stokes, chair of the residential division of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland. But, he says, there is nothing that cannot be fixed, once the purchase price is low enough and the money is there to complete the renovation with a good contingency fund built in to the costs.

“A full building survey is very important so the buyer can fully understand what they might be getting into,” he says, although he admits that for a first-time buyer who has never read a survey before, the detail can be more than a little daunting.

Another lot in the Allsops auction that ticks a lot of boxes for house hunters who are willing to do work is 8 Seafort Parade, Blackrock, Co Dublin.

The mid-terrace house is in three bedsits and has been vacant since 1999, so it needs considerable money spent to bring it back to a family home.

On the plus side it is an attractive house with sea views. The reserve is €250,000. “You’re really getting into ‘as long as a piece of string territory’ when you’re talking about the cost of renovating a period house; it depends on what’s needed and what you want to do,” says Stokes.

Another terraced house in units is 67 Hollybank Road, Drumcondra, Dublin, which has a reserve of €275,000.

There are seven bedsits in the Edwardian redbrick – six subject to tenancies and one vacant. While the house has a gross rent of €32,900 it’s likely its new owner will turn it back into a family home.

As well as getting their finances in order, and understanding exactly what they are getting into in terms of renovation costs, auction buyers must also ensure that the “legals”, eg title, planning permissions, and so on, are in order before bidding. If there are existing tenants, legal advice on how to proceed after the sale is crucial.

One well-located family home in the auction that doesn’t need work, as it was refurbished by its present owner, is 100 Lower Drumcondra Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

The reserve for the fine, period redbrick is between €500,000 and €550,000.

The five-bedroom house also has a one-bedroom annex and a two-bedroom mews making it an attractive proposition for someone looking for a fine family home with income generating potential. Its location, so close to the city centre and to two third-level colleges, makes it prime rental territory.

“All the houses you’ve asked me about were put into the auction by private sellers,” says Hoban, adding that despite Allsops’ reputation as an auction house for “bank sales” up to 40 per cent of lots in every auction are from private owners using the busy auction as a fast way to shift their property.

“Something like Phoenix Hill is difficult to value and the owners have decided that, after years of it being vacant, now is the time to sell. It’s also the sort of unique house that will appeal to international buyers. Buying by auction is a transparent way to sell, both for the seller and the buyer, and it will find its level on the day,” he says.

The next Allsops auction is at the RDS, Merrion Road, Dublin 4, on October 15th at 11am.

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