Renters are returning to Dublin following a hiatus of more than 18 months ahead of the reopening of workplaces and colleges this autumn, according to letting agencies and landlords.
Despite the brief lifting of some Covid-19 restrictions last September, the usual late August and September rush to secure city housing did not materialise last year, with most offices still operating remotely and lectures continuing online.
However, the tide appears to be turning with letting agents reporting growing demand for city properties. "We have seen a threefold increase in demand for rental accommodation on what it was two months ago, and a huge increase on this time last year," estate agent Owen Reilly said. "Up to July it was a tenants' market but that is all coming to an end. We are almost back to normal in terms of demand."
Rents, while not yet back at pre-Covid levels are correspondingly creeping up, he said. “Tenants did have a respite over the last 18 months not just in terms of lower rents but more choice. Unfortunately, given the level of demand and the lack of supply, rents are going to increase sharply.”
Rents in the city centre and docklands are currently around €2,100 for a two-bed, but are likely to increase in this bracket he said. “Around the €2,000 mark is where the real supply/demand mismatch is. You can get higher-end waterfront properties that were around €3,000 for €2,800 or €2,700 now.”
The agency, which manages more than 450 properties mainly across the docklands and Dublin 1,2,4, 6 and 8, is seeing a particular increase in people seeking to return from abroad to Dublin.
“We are getting a lot of people contacting us from Spain, France and Italy who have been working remotely now looking to return to Dublin.”
Returning from abroad
Many of those returning from abroad are particularly keen to secure accommodation before they arrive he said. “There are a lot less short-term accommodation options than there were pre-Covid, as a lot of it went back into long-term rental, so they don’t have that option while they look for something long-term.”
However, he has yet to see significant numbers of former renters returning to Dublin from rural Ireland.
“There is less evidence of tenants who moved within Ireland now looking to come back to Dublin. Anecdotally many people are telling me they will be back in Dublin just one or two days a week, and may commute for that.”
However, he said this could change rapidly as the autumn moves on.
"There will be companies that will require that you are commutable distance to the office. This idea that you can live in Kerry and work in Facebook in Dublin is unlikely to be the reality."
Margaret McCormick, spokeswoman for the Irish Property Owners’ Association said the low levels of supply in Dublin meant properties were rarely vacant for long, even during the height of pandemic restrictions, but she said, demand had recently increased.
“There has definitely been a steady increase in the last couple of months of people looking for somewhere to rent,” she said. “The vast majority of our member’s properties were complete all the time. People were leaving, sometimes for reasons to do with Covid, but they were re-let relatively quickly.”
The type of property people were looking to rent did change during the pandemic. “People were looking for larger places, or places they could rent on their own.”
John-Mark McCafferty chief executive tenants' rights organisation Threshold said it had not seen an increase in tenants seeking its assistance, possibly due to the continuing uncertainty over whether people would be required to return to office-based work.
“So far the issue of people returning to Dublin to seek rented housing as things open up again hasn’t presented itself to us,” he said “but we will keep an eye on emerging trends”.
The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) said it was too early to say if there was an increase in the registration of new tenancies.
“Landlords have 28 days to register a tenancy after the commencement date. This means that we begin analysing the data from the quarter one month after the quarter has ended to give an accurate picture of the sector for that period,” a spokesman said. “The process for quarter three of 2021 will begin at the start of November.”