Talking Property

Thu, May 17, 2012, 01:00

I’VE SPENT the last few weeks despairing of the Dublin rental market, wondering where on earth all the magnificently renovated and decorated trophy homes have gone.

Letting agents are equally frustrated by the lack of stock and say good-quality well-located family homes are being snapped up very quickly due to the lack of supply.

Hard as it is to find substantial four- and five-bedroom family homes for long-term rental, it’s almost impossible to source anything remotely resembling a top-level corporate family home on the short-lets market.

All that can be found are a few three-bed town houses, (in which you can hardly swing a proverbial mouse, let alone a cat) and the usual array of dull two-bedroom apartments. But nothing more substantial or suitable for families looking for space and comfort.

Let’s be blunt: the only people coming back to Ireland are those at the top end of the economic ladder; professionals or business people returning home to well-paid jobs and expecting to be able to rent a spacious and well-appointed family home at the upper end of the market.

Yet despite being repeatedly told there is a glut of homes on the market, we have little or nothing to offer our returning emigrants – either for sale or rent. And whatever about them finding that fact difficult to believe, I too find it impossible to understand. Where have all these properties gone?

Am I missing something? Have these homes been sold off quietly at rock bottom prices? Or are their original owners still in situ, some of them perhaps living on their nerves with the distinct possibility of 12 years penal servitude looming as an Irish bankrupt?

Perhaps these properties are let to people who had either the good fortune or the good sense to rent their way through the last few years of global financial turmoil?

Speaking of which: returning emigrants are not the only ones finding themselves homeless. One family, who sold their Dublin home and have been renting for the last few years, have recently bought another house which requires complete renovation. Unfortunately, as a bank is now their landlord and has decided to sell the rental property, the family is being forced to vacate at the end of their tenancy contract, leaving them with a void period of three months before their newly renovated home will be ready for occupation.

On their behalf I contacted the usual letting agents who were only interested in a 12 month-plus let and directed me back to the few short-term lets websites. But these, as per usual, had little else on their books but two-bedroom apartments.

I then tried a few of the estate agents, hoping perhaps, that there would be a “distressed” property available to rent for three months, while Nama put it through its slow processing system.

But no luck there either. If a Nama property is designated as being for sale, even if it is not yet formally on the market, then it remains empty “for legal reasons”, according to one agent.

Surely, if a top quality trophy property is empty and waiting to be processed by Nama’s system it should not be precluded from being let for short periods?

After all short-term tenants, particularly those at the top end of the market, are prepared to pay over the odds for such a facility.

Could these properties be rented out in much the same way as hotel rooms and luxury holiday villas, for short-term stays? Indeed, would it not be well worth Nama’s while hiring an efficient management company specifically designed to look after high-end short-term rental properties? They could even employ cleaners, a linen service, furniture removal companies and property-search agents to welcome and assist families returning to Ireland.

But, if Nama is uninterested, perhaps there is an opportunity for those who have waved goodbye to their adult children and who are rattling around in their magnificent trophy home, which they can’t afford to sell, yet can barely afford to keep?

Maybe these homeowners should be encouraged to temporarily up sticks and rent their big homes to incoming families. It may be well worth their while, particularly if our Government could refrain from levying penal taxes on them for their efforts.

Meanwhile driving by apparently unlived-in luxury homes, it’s difficult not to wonder if their owners are huddling together out of sight with the lights low for fear of attracting attention. Or are the houses empty, locks changed and keys hanging on one of the many hooks in Nama HQ.

The only way we will ever know the truth about our shifting property landscape is if Nama tells us.

But don’t hold your breath.


Isabel Morton is a property consultant