Reality bites in top house sales of 2013

With transaction levels improving, it was the former Celtic Tiger trophy homes, including those in the embassy belt and south Dublin suburbs, that finally found their real market value this year as the residential property price register shed a light on quieter deals

There was a definite increase in activity on the residential property sales front this year and transaction levels are back where they were three years ago. At the higher end it’s likely 2013 will be remembered as the year when asking prices finally moved into line with buyer expectations.

Dublin market
Among the year's more notable sales were some former Celtic Tiger trophies. If we look at the top six sales in Dublin, thanks to the residential property price register, we can see that a number of these sales took place quietly, off the market.

First, there's Walford, 24 Shrewsbury Road, which made headlines in 2005 when the crumbling Edwardian was purchased for a whopping €58 million by Matsack Nominees Limited, an anonymous trust company that has been linked to Gayle Killilea and her husband, property developer Sean Dunne.

Elaborate plans to develop the two-acre property never materialised, and the property collapse culminated in a massive price drop to €15 million. It came off the market in 2012, and in February appeared on the property price register with a €14 million price tag. The purchase raises more questions than answers, as the buyer remains a mystery, but it has been speculated that the sale could have been recorded after a transfer of shares within the same trust. What we do know is that the price paid is way out of line with prices for similar – and better – houses along the same stretch of road.


Another property that made headlines at the height of the Celtic Tiger was Gortanore, on Brighton Road in Foxrock. The 232sq m (2,500sq ft) house on three acres had the distinction of being Dublin’s top priced property when it sold in 2006 for €31m to developer David Arnold’s D2. This too ran into planning difficulty and local opposition, though planning was eventually granted. However, the downturn scuppered all plans and the property sold for €5.05m to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on behalf of its embassy in April this year.

A surprise sale was another off-market deal, when Glenvar on Blackrock's Cross Avenue sold for €5.25 million in January. The two-storey over-garden-level detached period house was bought by Ardagh Group chief executive Niall Wall directly from owner, retired businessman Peter Ledbetter.

Abbeville, the legendary Malahide home of former taoiseach Charles Haughey, finally found a buyer this year. The dilapidated Georgian on 250 acres sold last month to a Japanese businessman for about €5.2 million (only the €1.25 million value of the house is included on the property price register, land values are excluded). The receiver sale is quite a discount on the more than €35 million that was paid for the estate when it was bought for development as a luxury hotel and golf course by Manor Park Homes in 2004.

Shrewsbury House came as something of a surprise when it popped up on the price register as having sold for €4.65 million in October. Under long term lease to the Belgian embassy for nearly 50 years up to December last year, there were plans to lease it once more , when an approach was made to buy the 5,500 sq ft property on 0.75 acres. Apparently the UK-based owner Caroline Weeks sold number 2 to an Irish buyer who plans to spend a further seven figure sum refurbishing the property.

Round the corner 21 Ailesbury Road sold off market for €4.75 million in October. This 650sq m (7,000 sq ft) house was sold for €12.5 million at the market peak.

Other sales
In other noteworthy sales, in October Milverton, at 34 Herbert Park in Donnybrook made headlines when it achieved €4.6million at a Lisney auction. It was one of the highest prices paid for a property at auction in recent years. The five-bedroom Edwardian house on a third of an acre sold in 2005 for about €8 million.

Elsewhere at the top end, €4 million to €4.5 million seems to be the magic number. 1&3 Shrewsbury Road, the semi-detached former homes of financier Derek Quinlan sold through Sherry FitzGerald for €4.5 million in February. They were bought by an overseas buyer who has extensively refurbished them for luxury rental – further evidence of buyers spotting value in the Irish market and capitalising on the shortage of properties.

A five-bed semi-d at 23 Temple Gardens in Rathmines has also just sold through Sherry FitzGerald for €4.5 million.

Number 18 Ailesbury Road was another under- the-radar sale when it appeared on the register in June with a €4.5 million sale price. Once the home of former taoiseach Albert Reynolds, the buyer remains a mystery with little evidence of new residents moving in.

Another high profile sale was that of Paddock Wood in Dalkey for €4 million in October. There were unusual scenes when the Lisney auction was interrupted beforehand by former owner, Joan Nagle, wife of technology entrepreneur and Payzone founder John Nagle, when she sought to point out a number of costly flaws in the house.
Country market
In the country homes market there were strong sales, that were generally considered fair in price. The top sale however was a surprise. Bushy Park in Enniskerry appeared on the register as sold in February for €5.85 million. A 20-acre woodland estate this is the Georgian family home of singer Chris de Burgh, who bought it in the 1990s. There is no indication that the de Burghs have since moved out and the transaction may simply be a transfer of share ownership within a family trust as de Burgh plans his succession.

More straightforward was the sale of Dowth Hall in Drogheda, Co Meath at auction for €5 million. The estate was bought by local businessman, Owen Brennan, and includes a Georgian manor house in need of repair on 420 acres of prime agricultural land.

The next biggest sale was also in Meath when Ardbraccan Demesne in Navan was bought for around €4.5 million in April. Charles Noell, a US businessman from Maryland, bought the stately Palladian pile on 120 acres. Noell had been the underbidder on Dowth Hall earlier in the year.

Staying close to the capital, Grattan House in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, came on the market for €4 million on three acres in July. A faithfully rebuilt Georgian era home, the sale has not yet appeared on the price register, but it’s understood to have sold in the last month for about €3.8 million to an Irish family moving from Dalkey and seeking more space.

In slots five and six, we head into murkier territory because the property price register only records the price of the property, the separate sale of land is not included. Mount Kennedy House in Co Wicklow, a Georgian mansion on 170 acres, sold to an overseas buyer in recent weeks for a sum believed to be just over €3 million (it’s recorded on the property price register as €1.75 million).

The former home of the late Cecil Quinn, Ireland's honorary consul to Nigeria, came on the market in 2010 asking €7.75 million. The buyer is understood to be Europe- based with no Irish connections.

Receiver sale
Also selling for a sum over €3 million was the private island of Inishturk Beg off Clew Bay, Co Mayo. Its property price register entry in February is €1 million, but this does not include the entire 65 acre island and other accommodation.

A receiver sale, it was formerly owned by businessman Nadim Sadek, who spent about €9 million transforming the island. It's understood the buyers are a UK-based couple.

In other notable sales, Fastnet House in Kinsale comes in on the register at €3 million. The former home of Howard Holdings director Greg Coughlan and his wife, Anne, was built at a cost of more than €5 million, and was sold in November on the orders of Bank of Ireland by Colliers and Cohalan Dowling. It's understood it was bought by a London-based Irish oil industry executive.

Another interesting addition to the price register in July was Stacumny House in Co Kildare which is listed with a €2.65 million price. The former home of Danielle Ryan, daughter of the late businessman Cathal Ryan and granddaughter of Tony Ryan, was sold jointly by Sherry FitzGerald and Ganly Walters.

However, the details of the sale of the estate which included its own theatre and separate bar remain a closely guarded secret. The house, which came on the market asking €6.5 million early last year, is on six acres, and may have achieved somewhere closer to the €3 million mark.