South-facing garden has to give

On the move: something just has to give – like the ideal south-facing garden

 

Like many putative home buyers we started our search with a list of “non-negotiables”. Our chosen house should be close to our children’s school; but not too close. It should be easily accessible to public transport; but not near a noisy road. It should have scope for improvement; but not require complete renovation.

And most importantly, given the general lack of a summer in Ireland, it should have a south-facing garden to maximise those few sunny days we do actually get.

Six months on however, with demand remaining strong, family homes still in supply poor and an inelastic budget, something has to give. We’re fed up with the school traffic so moving further away from the school isn’t an option. We have visited homes in close proximity to busy roads like the N11 but found them to be just too noisy – and potentially dangerous. So it looks like it will be the garden.

The good news however, is that north-facing gardens are not something to be feared, as Ciaran Ferrie, of Ciaran Ferrie Architects, assures me.

While he acknowledges that a south- or south west-facing garden might be the most desired orientation, a north facing house can also be attractive, although east-facing gardens are more problematic.

“It very much depends on how the light falls in the garden,” he says, adding, “If the back of the house is facing north then you’re getting evening light in from the sides.” And if it’s a long garden, it won’t be overshadowed by the house itself.

This means that while the back of the house might be dark, the garden might still be sunny.

But what if you fear a cold, dark kitchen at the back of the house? For Ferrie, this shouldn’t be an issue if you are looking to extend or remodel, because you can angle sun lights in certain ways to capture the sun.

“Or rather than extending across the back you might go out on one side to have a west -facing window to catch the evening sun,” he suggests.

And if you’re willing to accept a north-facing garden, you might just save a few bob as well.

According to Sinead Beggan of McGuirk Beggan estate agents, south-facing gardens typically attract a premium simply because they attract more buyers and therefore there will be a higher level of competition.

“You would expect a house with a good orientation to have a higher level of interest,” she says.

As an example, she recently sold a house in good condition in Templeogue, south Dublin for €395,000. It had a small, north-facing garden, while its neighbour across the road, which was in need of more upgrading, had a 100-ft long south-westerly garden. It made considerably more at €435,000.

And if you have a north-facing garden and are worried as to whether it might sell or not, don’t be.

“It’s an issue for some people, and a non-issue for others,” she says, adding that there is only a “very small percentage of buyers who won’t look at a house with a north -facing garden.”

And now there’s one less!

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More evidence emerged this week of the difficulties in getting loan approval. A friend, who has recently gone sale agreed on a property, is trying to get a mortgage signed-off. While she was prepared for probing questions from the bank on her employment record, salary, savings records etc she was not expecting stressed phone calls wondering how many sofas she’s going to buy. Yes you heard that correctly. It’s a loan for several hundred thousand euro and the bank is wondering whether she’s going to buy one couch or two. Does the bank really want to know this or is it just another stalling tactic?

*****

While you’re probably heartily sick by now of hearing about the property tax, for house-hunters it does make a doer-upper more attractive.

Take the example of a property in need of renovation on the market for €500,000, compared with one where you don’t have to lift a finger for €800,000. The first property will incur a tax of €427 this year, or €854 in subsequent years, so €2,989 between now and 2016 – regardless of how much you might spend doing it up. The other property will cost you €1484 on a full-year basis, or €5194.