Property price register pushed out until late September


THE LONG-AWAITED property price register, detailing the sale price of residential properties here, looks like it’s now going to miss its expected summer deadline.

Despite being eagerly anticipated by estate agents, homeowners and buyers, and a recent call from the head of Nama to develop a commercial equivalent, the property price register has yet to materialise. So why the delay?

The property price database first made the headlines in early 2010 and since then there has been much talk but little action. In December of last year, the register was provided for by legislation, and at the time, it was understood that the register would appear six months later.

However, according to Tom Lynch, chief executive of the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA), the register was never going to be ready for June, despite this date being widely reported at the time.

“I never said it was June,” he says, adding that the register was supposed to be established six months after the establishment of the authority, and while the Act was signed into law in December, the authority did not get up and running until April. This, he says, might have led to the confusion.

Lynch was, however, quoted in this newspaper last November saying he “would be very surprised if the Authority didn’t have it out before then”, referring to the June date for the establishment of the register.

In any case, “it will be up by the end of September,” he now says, adding that the PSRA is currently working on licensing of estate agents, and the database is the authority’s next priority. According to Lynch, it will provide details on all properties sold from January 2010.

There is an obvious need for price certainty in the property market given the volatility in recent years.

Estate agents are precluded from divulging sale prices unless they have the express permission of both parties to the sale, which means that the information available has come mainly from auction sales – many of which are for distressed properties which are sold for cash.

Given that one would expect an additional discount to be factored into these prices, they are not a wholly accurate picture of the market, which means that sellers can struggle to fix a sale price, and bidders can offer unrealistically low bids. And price indices such as that from the Central Statistics Office are not seen as wholly representative of the market.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan pointed out the difficulties himself at the recent Property Industry Ireland conference, when he noted that “different organisations produce different results on an average house price in Dublin and the rest of the country”.

The new register, he said, will “hopefully put an end to the divergence in estimates of an average house price”.

However, its delay has made some industry members a little frustrated.

“How many times have we heard about this?” asks Ronan O’Driscoll, head of residential sales with Savills. “I believe it will happen; but when I just don’t know.”

Given the delays the project has met to date, there is concern that, as some people have suggested, this date will be pushed out once more.