Has the flirty fun gone out of property porn? With house prices at an all-time high, and so many people struggling to find somewhere to live, this could be an absurd moment for a series celebrating Ireland’s most chichi residents. But don’t worry, says the voiceover at the start of Selling Ireland’s Dream Homes (RTÉ2, Monday, 9.30pm). All we have to do is “imagine a world where we’re spoiled for choice and free to live wherever we want”.
That’s quite a fantasy. And who could deny the thrill of snooping around the multimillion-euro houses that manifest before us in mirage-like splendour? Are they real? If we reach out, could we touch them? Maybe it’s all a hallucination we have collectively willed into existence.
Megapriced-property telly has become its own microgenre over the past few years. The best-known example is Selling Sunset, on Netflix. There, the drama has as much to do with the glamorous, back-stabbing estate agents as with the dwellings themselves. Channel 4 has tried to replicate the formula in the UK with Britain’s Most Expensive Houses. It features fast-talking realtors who orbit the megarich and have lots of underwhelming adventures along the way.
Mercifully, RTÉ has not tried to tack on its own extension to this cheesy milieu. Any temptation to elevate Irish estate agents into microcelebs is wisely resisted in a watchable, largely ostentation-free lifestyle documentary.
In Dublin we take the elevator to the penthouse at Forbes Quay, in Grand Canal Dock. As he surveys the capital from a roof garden, the auctioneer Owen Reilly laments the ever-spiralling “supply-demand mismatch”: the pandemic has “accelerated the return for a lot of Dubliners ... all coming back at the same time”.
Hopscotching around the country, the bombshell is that Ireland brims with luxury addresses, invariably tucked away from the gawping masses. On the banks of Lough Derg in Tipperary stands Slevoir House, complete with an Italianate tower and a near €3 million asking price. Cobh, in Co Cork, is home to a converted Martello tower the interior of which looks like a meeting place for a sophisticated magicians’ coven. Back in Dublin, we take a trip to an apartment at the InterContinental Hotel. It’s yours for €1.25 million, though the fancy furniture costs extra.
One surprise is that the properties are uniformly understated. There’s no gaudy glamour or knock-your-socks-off opulence. Money can buy you a lot, even in 2022. But in Ireland, now more than ever, the super-rich prefer discretion to bling.