Database to give addresses, sale prices


Price database will be a priority, says Property Authority

THE PROPERTY price database promised by Minister for Justice and Law Reform Dermot Ahern this week will provide details of all property sales by address, sale price and date of sale according to the head of the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA), which will publish the information.

Tom Lynch, head of the PRSA, said that the final shape and content of the register would be determined by legislation and that he would make the new register a priority once the new Authority was established on a statutory basis.

Estate agents are hoping that the new database will provide property sale prices almost immediately. The database should be open and detailed down to the last penny – and the information should be made available very quickly, Ronan O’Driscoll, of Savills estate agency, said.

“If a sale is completed today, the information should be a matter of public record tomorrow. Comparisons of house prices are only useful for a very short period, say, after three or four months.”

Apart from the benefit to individual buyers and sellers as well as to agents, there are broader reasons for a detailed register, said Mr O’Driscoll. “Principally, it will provide an accurate picture of the market.”

The only data now available on house prices is based either on asking prices or mortgages drawn down, neither of which give an accurate picture of the market. “Some say prices fell by 30 per cent when we know prices have really fallen by 50 per cent,” said Mr O’Driscoll.

Some people may not be happy that the sale price of their house will be published, but there “should be no exemptions”, he added.

The head of Douglas Newman Good, Keith Lowe, also believes a house price database will be good for the market, providing accurate information about house price trends.

“The Permanent TSB/ESRI index, for example, would be very much at variance to our own, which shows a much greater fall in prices. This will bring transparency to the market.”

Mr Lowe hopes that the database or register will be very similar to those in the UK and the US where anyone can insert an address and the most recent property sale price comes up.

“It should be backdated by six months to a year, if it is to be of real use to the economy.”

The Society of Chartered Surveyors also welcomed the announcement of the database, although SCS president Peter Stapleton said it is important that it covers the whole spectrum of the commercial property market.

“For this register to be fully effective it is vital that the legislation includes the commercial market in full and this needs to be clarified.

“The commercial sector’s need of a register is even greater than that of the residential market,” said Mr Stapleton, explaining that while commercial prices can be reported at the moment, transactions are generally weighed down with confidentiality clauses that restrict information.

The owner of property franchise Re/Max Ireland, John Fogarty, said the legislation allowing for a new database is long overdue. “Up to now vendors had false expectations as they were basing everything on guide prices. On the other hand, purchasers were assuming that any asking price should be 20 per cent less.”

Waterford auctioneer Mr Fogarty, who took over Re/Max Ireland in June, said “The current situation makes it difficult for vendors, purchasers and agents to operate. With the new legislation everybody will have the correct facts and will not be operating on rumours.”

Fine Gael housing spokesman Terence Flanagan TD also welcomed the announcement but warned “Ireland does not need another quango duplicating data that is already out there.”

A number of commentators have pointed out that the Revenue Commissioners already get regular information from solicitors on house sale prices (usually within a month of completion of a house sale).

A Revenue spokesperson yesterday confirmed that under the online e-stamping system introduced this year, solicitors still supply Revenue with “details of the consideration” – ie, the amount paid for a house.

“It is possible that Revenue could (subject to data protection regulations) extrapolate data from the e-stamping database for a proposed property database,” Revenue said .