Three years ago when the bottom of the falling property market seemed unfathomable, two young brothers from Arklow began buying sites for development. With initial capital of about €200,000, Greg and Hugh Kavanagh’s first venture as developers was the purchase of a site on Grand Canal Street in Dublin 2 and another in Knocklyon, Co Dublin.
New Generation Homes was born, and a series of residential land acquisitions followed that quickly had people talking about the new kids on the block.
While the focus has always been on Dublin, the location of the sites is diverse, running from Sutton to Dún Laoghaire, and Westmanstown to Cabinteely. Their highest profile scheme to date was Aikens Village in Stepaside, Co Dublin, where 104 new homes have been built and sold in a planned development of 350 units.
Today New Generation launches probably its most ambitious scheme yet in Rathmichael, Co Dublin. It may be a small development of just 11 houses but at between €1.2million and €1.3million each this is the most expensive and exclusive new homes scheme to be built since the construction industry ground to a halt six years ago.
Situated on a hillside on Rathmichael’s exclusive Ferndale Road – known for its large detached houses on even larger private sites costing upwards of €1 million – Hillfield is a private seven-acre site on the former grounds of Shankill House.
Bought for about €2million last year, it came with planning and architectural designs for these 11 detached properties, five of which launch today through agents Kelly Walsh.
The showhouse is the only one fully complete, and Hugh Kavanagh, who leads the construction side of the business, says the other properties which have a broadly similar fitout will be tailor finished to meet the buyers' requirements. Already two of the units are sale agreed and the finish for each is being finalised.
Each house extends to a very sizeable 370sq m (3,983 sq ft) over two floors and sits on an average plot size of about .4 of an acre. Gardens have been carefully landscaped to the tune of €45,000 each, while the interiors are very different from that of the average new home.
There is split-level accommodation both at ground floor and first-floor level, and a double-height entrance hallway floods the space with light. On the ground floor the highlight is a vast kitchen-living space at the rear of the house.
Ceiling heights are generous with bright tiling, granite worktops and a nice flow through sliding double doors to the patio outside. Kitchen and flooring styles can be modified based on what buyers want and ordered to spec from Celtic Kitchens and House of Tiles.
The adjoining diningroom and more formal livingroom are floored in smoked oak and have cosy proportions, but again provide access through big double doors to the outdoor terrace. The solid fuel fireplace in the livingroom is glass fronted as all of the houses come with an A3 building energy rating (BER). Central heating is provided by sophisticated Dimplex air-sourced heat pumps which Kavanagh says will save 60 per cent on heating costs. A good thing, no doubt, because there’s a lot of house to heat. There’s also a study, bathroom and large utility at this level.
Upstairs there are five large, bright bedrooms with built-in storage, four with en suites and the master has a fully fitted walk-in wardrobe. An adjacent “storage room” could double as a nursery, box room or even be incorporated into the master suite. There are two separate attic spaces which would offer substantial additional room if required. A walkway on this level overlooks the entrance hall and skylights provide lots of natural light.
Hugh Kavanagh sees Hillfield as a showcase for New Gen – as the company is known – to expand its portfolio and also to show the competition that although it might be a relative newcomer, it can build houses with the best of them.
“The build costs would be about 30 per cent higher on these, but it shows what we can do. Very few developers have built anything like this.”
Meanwhile, the expansion plans continue. With deals in negotiation and about to close on further sites around Dublin city centre, it begs the question of where the money is coming from. While technology entrepreneur Pat McDonagh was a substantial backer for the Aikens Village project, the Kavanaghs, who share the business with long-time friend and Kerryman Patrick Crean, say they are now entirely backed by M&G, a UK hedge fund. It provides for New Gen a steady flow of working capital (estimated to be in the region of €200 million). Kavanagh says they have no bank lending – nor will they ever – and their cash reserves are substantial and growing.
More than 200 contractors are currently working on sites, and in the next six months to a year projects scheduled for construction include 43 houses in Carrickmines, and smaller schemes of 10 units on Butterfield Avenue in Rathfarnham and 14 units on Leinster Road in Rathmines. Longer term projects include more than 200 apartments in St Clare’s in Harold’s Cross, and another 200-plus apartments at land adjacent to Doyles Nursery* in Cabinteely.
With enough in the pipeline to keep them going for several years, the acquisition offensive appears to be slowing as land values rise. According to Kavanagh: “Land is getting too expensive. Other international funds are paying way over the odds. We came up against them a couple of times earlier this year and just walked away. They are factoring predicted growth figures into their site assessments, whereas every site we buy must make sense if you were to sell it tomorrow.”
Viewing at Hillfield is by appointment only through agents Kelly Walsh.
* This article was amended on Thursday, April 13th, 2014