Reality bites in top house sales of 2013

With transaction levels improving, it was the former Celtic Tiger trophy homes, including those in the embassy belt and south Dublin suburbs, that finally found their real market value this year as the residential property price register shed a light on quieter deals

Thu, Dec 5, 2013, 00:00

There was a definite increase in activity on the residential property sales front this year and transaction levels are back where they were three years ago. At the higher end it’s likely 2013 will be remembered as the year when asking prices finally moved into line with buyer expectations.

Dublin market
Among the year’s more notable sales were some former Celtic Tiger trophies. If we look at the top six sales in Dublin, thanks to the residential property price register, we can see that a number of these sales took place quietly, off the market.

First, there’s Walford, 24 Shrewsbury Road, which made headlines in 2005 when the crumbling Edwardian was purchased for a whopping €58 million by Matsack Nominees Limited, an anonymous trust company that has been linked to Gayle Killilea and her husband, property developer Sean Dunne.

Elaborate plans to develop the two-acre property never materialised, and the property collapse culminated in a massive price drop to €15 million. It came off the market in 2012, and in February appeared on the property price register with a €14 million price tag. The purchase raises more questions than answers, as the buyer remains a mystery, but it has been speculated that the sale could have been recorded after a transfer of shares within the same trust. What we do know is that the price paid is way out of line with prices for similar – and better – houses along the same stretch of road.

Another property that made headlines at the height of the Celtic Tiger was Gortanore, on Brighton Road in Foxrock. The 232sq m (2,500sq ft) house on three acres had the distinction of being Dublin’s top priced property when it sold in 2006 for €31m to developer David Arnold’s D2. This too ran into planning difficulty and local opposition, though planning was eventually granted. However, the downturn scuppered all plans and the property sold for €5.05m to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on behalf of its embassy in April this year.

A surprise sale was another off-market deal, when Glenvar on Blackrock’s Cross Avenue sold for €5.25 million in January. The two-storey over-garden-level detached period house was bought by Ardagh Group chief executive Niall Wall directly from owner, retired businessman Peter Ledbetter.

Abbeville, the legendary Malahide home of former taoiseach Charles Haughey, finally found a buyer this year. The dilapidated Georgian on 250 acres sold last month to a Japanese businessman for about €5.2 million (only the €1.25 million value of the house is included on the property price register, land values are excluded). The receiver sale is quite a discount on the more than €35 million that was paid for the estate when it was bought for development as a luxury hotel and golf course by Manor Park Homes in 2004.

Shrewsbury House came as something of a surprise when it popped up on the price register as having sold for €4.65 million in October. Under long term lease to the Belgian embassy for nearly 50 years up to December last year, there were plans to lease it once more , when an approach was made to buy the 5,500 sq ft property on 0.75 acres. Apparently the UK-based owner Caroline Weeks sold number 2 to an Irish buyer who plans to spend a further seven figure sum refurbishing the property.

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