Sunday, 30 January 2011

Ireland's Economy Has Fallen Off A Cliff...

Nation might take 15 years to recover

Economy has shrunk by 'catastrophic' 22pc on peak, figures reveal.

Ireland's economy has "fallen off a cliff" and could take more than 15 years to recover as new figures reveal it has shrunk by 22 per cent from its peak.

A loss of more than a fifth of the country's domestic trade, particularly in the retail sector, in such a short period of time has been branded a catastrophe by the opposition and by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME).

The domestic economy, the day-to-day business of trading, has been decimated and to a far greater extent than previously thought.

According to official CSO quarterly National Accounts figures, since the peak of Ireland's economic wealth creation in the first quarter of 2007, Ireland's economy has reduced by a frightening 22 per cent.

From that peak period in early 2007, GNP figures (the domestic economy) had plummeted by just under 25 per cent in mid-2010, but rallied slightly in the second half of last year.

Given the penal rates of interest being levied against Ireland on its €85bn loan from the IMF/EU, there is a growing consensus that the country won't be able to meet the repayments that some commentators believe could be as high as €10bn a year in interest alone.

As a result of a collapse of all tax revenues since the peak of late 2006 and early 2007, the Irish Exchequer has also reached another worrying milestone -- posting 35 consecutive monthly Exchequer deficits since January 2008.

Mr Lenihan's 2009 Budget day comments that the worst is over were based on a reported minor return to growth, driven by multinational profits, but this was an error and in fact the pace of decline actually increased towards the end of 2009.

In recent days and weeks, Mr Lenihan has pointed to the growth of the export sector as a real positive sign for the Irish economy.

He also said that he stood over his comments that the worst was over because GDP (GNP plus multinational profits) is a far better indicator in terms of economic activity and jobs.

In total, the domestic economy fell by 11.3 per cent during 2009, the largest-single decrease in wealth ever recorded.

Labour's finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said that Ireland had "fallen off a cliff" and that behind these stark figures was a world of pain for regular Irish families.

Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe said the enduring legacy of the Government was the destruction of small businesses around the country.

"Our export industries are vital but we need a thriving domestic economy to get our country back to work," he said.

"The Government has done too little too late to realise that we need small and medium businesses to drive our economy back to recovery."

ISME said the majority of the pain was being felt by small businesses, which have been abandoned by the State.

To illustrate the true devastation of the recession on the private sector, 127 companies a week have ceased trading since Brian Cowen became Taoiseach in May 2008.

Report by DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter - Sunday Independent

Sunday, 23 January 2011

300,000 Homeowners In Negative Equity...

Up to 300,000 homeowners in negative equity

Further 30,000 will struggle with mortgage payments after Budget tax increases kick in...

THE spectacular fall in property prices is even worse than was stated by a government economic think tank last week -- up to 300,000 homeowners are now in negative equity.

Expected interest rate hikes will mean another 30,000 people -- roughly the population of Dundalk -- will struggle to meet their mortgage payments by the end of the year.

The recession, joblessness and rising interest rates already mean that 70,000 borrowers have missed payments or renegotiated their mortgages.

Now financial institutions are expected to increase their standard variable rates.

It is also widely expected that the European Central Bank will increase its interest rate before the end of the year. This would also hit those on tracker mortgages.

Michael Dowling, of the Independent Mortgage Advisors Federation (IMAF), said: "With rising unemployment, higher taxes and the threat of higher interest rates this year, at least 100,000 people could be under stress to meet their mortgage payments by the end of the year."

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), in conjunction with Permanent TSB (PTSB), said last week that prices were now back down to 2002 levels.

But leading auctioneers Savills Ireland told the Sunday Independent that the fall had been even higher. They said that in some sectors of the market, prices were now back to the levels of 11 years ago.

Joan Henry, head of research at Savills Ireland, said: "While the PTSB/ESRI index shows that prices in the market are back to 2002 levels, Savills data for particular areas shows that houses are transacting in some cases at 2000 price levels."

She suggested that given this level of price correction and the removal of stamp duty, there was "good value" for those seeking to buy but there was unlikely to be any large increase in property transactions in the first half of this year.

"Unfortunately, economic developments in the final two quarters of 2010 have had a negative impact on both activity and price levels in the property market. Entering into 2011, continued liquidity issues in the banks, coupled with reduced disposable incomes via tax increases, will impact on sentiment and the purchasing power for potential buyers," she said.

Ms Henry suggested that the effective removal of residential stamp duty may have a positive effect on the second-hand market.

"The fact that first-time buyers are in the stamp-duty net, albeit at very low levels, could result in further price reductions for that category of buyer," she said.

Frank Conway of the Irish Mortgage Corporation said those who bought at the height of the property boom would be in negative equity and trapped with their existing lenders for years to come.

"As many as 250,000 to 300,000 mortgage holders are thought to be in negative equity. In mid-2006, more than a third of all first-time buyers purchased their homes using 100pc financing.

"Today, all would be in negative equity as house prices have fallen by 40pc or more," he said.

According to the Permanent TSB/ESRI house-price index, the fall has been 38 per cent since mid-2006.

But the index shows that house prices fell by 3.5 per cent in the final quarter of last year -- a time when consumer confidence was low in advance of December's austerity Budget.

The rate of decline in average house prices in Ireland accelerated in the fourth quarter of 2010.

However, overall, the rate of decline for the year was significantly less than in 2009. House prices fell by 10.8 per cent, compared to a drop of 18.5 per cent in 2009.

But last week, tens of thousands of workers who received their monthly salaries discovered the true extent of the tax and levy increases introduced by Mr Lenihan.

Couples on average pay have had their net income cut by €140 a month.

Workers on the top tax rate are now burdened with paying 52 per cent of their gross pay in taxes and through the new universal social levy.

Official figures given to Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton show that 91,000 PAYE workers will move from the 20 per cent standard rate to the top 41 per cent rate.

It means that many of those thinking about buying property will have to re-evaluate their figures to take account of drastically reduced take-home pay.

Report by JEROME REILLY and LOUISE McBRIDE - Sunday Independent

Friday, 21 January 2011

What's A House Worth Now?...

What's a house worth now: does anyone know?

With no national house price register available to help homeowners, working out how much your property is really worth can be tricky – if not impossible

LIKE MANY neighbourhoods around the country, Charlesland in Greystones, Co Wicklow could be renamed Walter Mittyland, such is the huge disparity in the asking prices of houses in the area.

When Keith Slowey and his wife, Genevieve, put their three- bed end-of-terrace on 89 Charlesland Grove on the market in October at an initial asking price of €310,000 (now reduced to €295,000), a three-bed mid-terrace house nearby was asking €345,000 while another three-bed, also mid terrace, in the area was €485,000.

There are lots of properties in Charlesland on the market and according to Keith Slowey, “the price range is crazy”. Two-bed houses predominate in the estate and some are asking more than nearby three-beds.

The houses are being sold by investors bailing out of the market and owner-occupiers looking to migrate down the N11 towards south county Dublin where properties are now more affordable.

The Sloweys are looking at five-bed houses in Delgany that cost €1.2 million at the peak but are now just over €500,000.

Before deciding what to ask for his house, Keith studied similar houses in the area on which he says was helpful, but a little misleading.

“All you are seeing is the prices people are looking for, not what they are actually getting.” With no house price register and a lack of transparency surrounding selling prices due to data protection legislation, confusion and denial reigns.

Some vendors are clinging to the vain hope that someone will love their property enough to meet their asking price, even it’s substantially more than their neighbours are asking for a similar property.

Charlesland was built in several phases and the asking prices in some cases reflect the prices originally paid. While the Sloweys bought their house in 2005 in an early phase of the development for €385,000 and will make a substantial loss of around €90,000 if they sell at the current asking price, they have good savings which will make up the loss.

“Some people who bought in later phases paid €525,000 for the same house and probably can’t afford to drop below a certain asking price.”

Little did vendors and estate agents know when properties were flying out the door at the peak of the boom that life was about to get so complicated. Now, with far fewer transactions to facilitate comparisons and no national house price register available to help homeowners assess the value of their own property, working out how much a house is worth can be like nailing jelly to a wall.

While the Government has promised to establish a national property price data base, this is unlikely to be set up in the short term. It’s dependent on the fate of the Property Services (Regulation) Bill 2009, which came before the Dáil in November but looks increasingly unlikely to be passed before an election is called.

For now, house prices remain a private affair between the buyer and the seller and their agents, the exception being prices achieved at public auctions. However, with so few of those happening, auctions can no longer be relied on to provide an accurate picture of values in any given area.

One of the problems is that while we know prices have taken a nosedive since the peak, the exact amount by which they have fallen is up for debate. The latest Permanent TSB/ ESRI house price index says house prices fell nationally by a further 3.5 per cent in the last three months of 2010, putting the fall since the peak in 2006 at 38 per cent.

But different house price indices tend to come up with different figures and often don’t take into account the nuances of local markets.

Low transaction levels – the country largest estate agency chain, Sherry FitzGerald estimates says the number of homes it sold last year, was down 55-60 per cent from the peak year of 2006 – have meant that it’s difficult even for estate agents to get a handle on values in some areas and even when they can glean some prices from other agents, sellers expectations and personal circumstances also come into play.

Against this backdrop of low activity, agents also find themselves having to appeal to sellers to be realistic about price, says Gunne director Declan Cassidy, who operates from the agency’s Fairview branch.

“You can show them (the sellers) asking prices for similar properties in the area, and they might say they want to be realistic, but if another agent says they’ll get them a higher price, they often go with them. A few months later and it’s back down in price.

“It’s all about getting them to believe the facts. For instance, if they know their neighbour sold at €325,000, why do they think their house is going to get €375,000? If they price it right in the first place, the get viewings, and once viewings start there’s more chance of getting bids.”

Vendors tend to be more realistic when they need to sell quickly but not everyone is in a hurry to sell. Estate agent Owen Reilly who specialises in docklands property, says that some owners are happy to leave their property on the market, at an unrealistic price, for months, even years. “This is creating a false impression of the market, that nothing is moving.” he said.

Some vendors may well be just testing the market, while others are putting property up for sale as an exercise to appease their bank, but at a price at which they know is unlikely to attract bids.

In some cases where properties sell after a long period of being on the market, the neighbours can be shocked to discover the eventual price, which may be far below the asking price, and far below what they reckon their own home is worth. These slow-to-sell properties often undergo gradual under-the-radar price drops and eventually sell at a fraction of the start-off price.

Price is the first thing most buyers notice. Sellers can be reluctant to commit to an asking price they feel doesn’t reflect the special features or standard of their property, but the anecdotal evidence is that they won’t get viewings unless they are prepared to compromise. While the size, condition, orientation and parking all have a bearing on what is being asked, ultimately says Reilly, it’s a numbers game. “It’s all about encouraging viewing and activity.”

Agents are saying that while there’s a perception that nothing is selling, when a buyer feels there is value they act quickly.

Declan Cassidy subscribes to the theory that selling houses is about getting people to viewings. “If a number of people turn up to view a house, it’s a comfort to each one to know that they’re not the last buyers out there.”

It’s easier to value property at the lower end of the market, where activity is stronger. “People will see a ‘sale agreed’ sign around the corner, and will phone us and ask us to come out and do a valuation on their house.” says Declan Cassidy. It gets trickier in areas where there haven’t been many recent transactions or where there are one-off properties, often in upmarket areas. “If you are going into an area you are not familiar with, there’s a good chance you will get it wrong unless you do your homework,” he says.

James Barber, who is selling a three-bed apartment at 125 Longboat Quay on Grand Canal Dock, says while his apartment is bigger than average – and is spread over two levels with some lovely features including swish bathrooms with underfloor heating – he came to the conclusion that he couldn’t assume that buyers were paying attention to the finer details. He accepted the estate agent’s advice to set an asking price that would generate viewings. “I did my own research as well and looked at Daft and, comparing my apartment with others.” His apartment is unusually spacious, with all mod-cons, but doesn’t have parking or a view of the dock and is on the ground floor. While he is asking €390,000, another much smaller 81sq m (872sq ft) two-bed on Longboat Quay but with waterfront views and parking is asking €495,000.

Barber has had over 30 viewings, by a mix of Irish people, Zimbabweans, South Africans, Chinese and Polish people, “but only two or three silly offers”. Barber’s agent, Owen Reilly, says: “If you were just talking about price per square foot the asking price should be higher but you have to put yourself in the buyers shoes and take into account that there is no parking”.

So how do agents value property in areas where they’ve had few transactions? They are saying that while the lack of price transparency makes life difficult, there’s more co-operation now between estate agents, who are helping each other with price comparisons .

“They won’t give you the exact asking price but you probably get fairly good idea,” said one director of an estate agency chain with several branches in Dublin. Big estate agent firms can have an advantage because there are more transactions which can be used for the purposes of comparison.

But even for the bigger agencies it can be difficult to get a direct or similar comparison, particularly where a property is unusual or has a quirk, and in the past these would have gone down the auction route to find their value in the marketplace. Declan Cassidy says agents can build a picture of values by talking to people – even people on their list who haven’t bought from them but who will often disclose how much they paid for another property.

However, even the most savvy agent can find themselves have to re-evaluate rapidly. This has been happening in neighbourhoods where receivers have been called in to dispose of distressed properties. A recent case was the sell-off of a block of apartments on the southside, called Booterstown Wood, at prices that were less than have than those originally asked by the developer. “Overnight it established a new value for that kind of property and in line with that I had to adjust the price of a property I had for sale nearby.”While big receiver sales can force people to re-evaluate asking prices in an area, individual vendors who drop the price of their home to a new low level can come in for stick from their neighbours.

Keith Slowey says he was approached by another seller in Charlesland who said his strategy to undercut the market, was “dragging everyone else down. But the way I look at it, it’s all about who can afford to sell and get out quickest”.

Report by EDEL MORGAN - Irish Times.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Bailout Is Most EU Gave...

Bailout will total more than the EU ever gave us...

Noonan says interest rate must be renegotiated by next government:

THE €85bn IMF-EU bailout will come to more than the total amount of payments received since we joined Europe in 1973, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Fine Gael's Michael Noonan said yesterday that this stark fact showed why the interest rate levied on Ireland must be renegotiated and that any new government's hand will be strengthened by this revelation.

In cash terms, Ireland has received €63.7bn from Europe in various agricultural, social and cohesion funding -- far less than the bailout forced on the Irish by Jean Claude Trichet's European Central Bank in late November.

When those payments are adjusted for inflation, they total €99bn -- that is fractionally more than the total cost of the bailout when the penal interest rates are factored in.

When Ireland's payments to Europe are subtracted, our net receipts from the EU budget amount to €41bn, of which no more than about €20bn could be classified as in any sense discretionary.

In 1973, Ireland received funds totalling just €47.1m from the then EEC, but by 1984 that figure had shot up to more than €1bn a year.

Payments into Ireland peaked at €3.2bn in 1997 and 1998 and have been falling steadily ever since.

According to the latest figures available from the Department of Finance, in 2009 Ireland received €1.8bn from various European funds, with the bulk of the money coming from the European Agriculture Guarantee Fund.

The fact that all of the inward investment into Ireland since we joined the EEC will be negated by paying back the bailout fund highlights the horrific cost being borne by the taxpayer because of the mistakes of bankers and developers during the last decade.

Fine Gael's finance spokesman Michael Noonan told the Sunday Independent that Ireland will end up paying back more than it has ever received from Europe.

He said: "These figures strengthen the hand of any incoming government to renegotiate the rate of interest being levied on Ireland, particularly on the sum coming from the EU stability fund."

Mr Noonan was heavily critical of Brian Lenihan's decision not to contest the interest rate on the first tranche of loans totalling €5bn, which was transferred on Wednesday.

As Spain and Portugal seek to contain borrowing costs and avoid bailouts, European governments are considering lower interest rates on rescue loans in exchange for new guarantees to limit sovereign debt.

Ireland became the first nation to tap the fund, created in May, after Greece had received a separate €110bn rescue package.

The ratio of Irish debt to gross domestic product will reach 114 per cent next year, the EU estimates. That's up from 25 per cent in 2007.

"It would be reasonable to lower currently charged funding costs by some 200 basis points to 300 basis points, thereby providing additional indirect financial support," Julian Callow, chief European economist at Barclays Capital in London, said in a January 10 research report.

European finance ministers may discuss lower rates on rescue loans when they meet in Brussels tomorrow.

Other possible changes include boosting the lending capacity of the EFSF, which is backed by €440bn in guarantees by eurozone governments, and expanding its role to allow for debt purchases.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has said that increasing the size of the fund by several hundred million euro will not be sufficient.

The EU must forge a "global package, not a series of individual parcels," she said.

Report by DANIEL McCONNELL - Sunday Independent

Monday, 10 January 2011

How the Irish Keep Their Cool

Hard Times

You know times are bad when you can overhear elderly ladies on the bus using phrases like “the current budget deficit,” as I did recently, on a pleasant autumn morning in Dublin. You know times are really bad when one of them just about knows the figure: “Oh, God, it’s 30 percent or something.” In fact, the Irish government’s deficit for 2010 hit 32 percent of GDP, more than 10 times the legal maximum for countries in the euro zone. It’s hard to find a parallel to such public excess anywhere in the Western world.

The effects of our crisis are everywhere you look. The bus that morning was almost empty. Barely two years ago it would have been packed with Polish and Lithuanian hard hats, dressed in work boots and high-visibility jackets and heading for their construction jobs. Now many of the migrants have gone back home. Construction has halted, and much other work besides. Fine restaurants now offer three-course lunches for just €15. Newspaper lifestyle supplements are full of advice on “looking good for less” and how to cook cheap cuts of meat. Recession chic is the fashion of the moment.

Even the landscape tells of the crash. Besides lacing their daily speech with phrases once used only by economists, the Irish have added a new term to the lexicon: “ghost estates.” It refers to housing developments that were being built when the 2008 crash hit and were left unfinished and empty, formerly expensive real estate now being reclaimed by weeds, moss, and soft Irish rain. An official report in October found 2,800 ghost estates, with a total of 120,000 vacant houses—enough for a midsize Irish city.

People are way beyond broke. The Irish have always responded to hardship by moving on. They don’t revolt, they emigrate—to America, to Canada, to Australia, or just across the Irish Sea to the United Kingdom. But where would they go in these times? Things aren’t that much better anywhere in the Western world.

And even if they were, many Irish feel trapped where they are. In the madly inflated property bubble, ordinary working couples took out €400,000 mortgages for houses that are now worth half that amount. Roughly 250,000 homes—the equivalent of two more midsize Irish cities—are now in negative equity, worth less on the market than the debt that is on them. The owners have no way to raise the cash they would need in order to start over somewhere else.

It’s toughest for the young. Those of us who are into and beyond middle age can find some measure of consolation in our memories of past hard times, of which Ireland has had plenty. Even those who embraced the boom with unabashed enthusiasm seem able to get past it now, claiming to have known all along that it was only a mirage. But the young people have known only prosperity. For them these lean times are no reversion to old and familiar challenges; instead, they’re strange and disorienting.

Many outside Ireland seem baffled by what they regard as the great mystery of our recession: the almost complete lack of organized protests against wage and welfare reductions, shrinking public services, and other cutbacks. Faced with at least four more years of austerity, the government is counting on the public’s continued willingness to take its medicine.

Despite that seeming passivity, people are furious. Mentions of “negative equity” and “the current budget deficit” tend to be peppered with altogether unprintable language. People blame the bankers (especially the casino operation Anglo Irish Bank, which has cost the taxpayers €23 billion so far), the property developers, and the government that encouraged such profligacy in the name of minimal regulation and the free market.

But the rage is trumped by fear. There’s a palpable anxiety at every level: Will I be able to keep up my family’s mortgage payments? Will the state continue to have access to the international bond markets? Will Ireland’s next generation accept the need to pay for the follies of this one?

On his deathbed, the great (and greatly indebted) Irishman Oscar Wilde called for champagne, declaring: “I shall die as I have lived, beyond my means.” Ireland now seems to be making a similar gesture. Government policy is to put on a brave face, insist that the levels of private and public debt are “manageable,” and keep paying whatever it takes to save the banks. But when old ladies on the bus are reciting the figures, it’s not so easy to maintain a Wildean nonchalance.

Report in Newsweek by O’Toole (columnist for The Irish Times and author of Enough Is Enough: How to Build a New Republic.)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Art Of A Good Sale...

Now that the old days are gone, if any house is to sell it has to shine. But sell it can, writes Rose Martin...

IN this market, it’s possible to get a bigger house, in a better location for the same price as the house you have now. The only snag is you have to sell your own, and more than likely at what would be deemed a loss.

But then, the asset value of properties given during the boom were notional, and so too is the price you probably carry round in your head as the value of your own house.

In order to move and get where you want to be, then you must scrap preconceptions if you are to sell.

And that’s not as daunting as it seems — the lower end of the market is doing well, so selling the semi to buy that larger or detached house is possible. You just need to accept the hit and relish the fact that you’re buying low — the swings and roundabout school of property economics.

And when you’ve decided on moving, put the house on the market immediately — but only after you’ve checked out agents, been given quotes for their fees and have checked out the prices made in your area.

Then it’s time to get down to business.

Getting a house ready for sale is one of the most stressful experiences you can go through and it’s a truism that your house will never look nicer or better than when it goes on the market.

We are perverse people — what may be good enough for us certainly won’t be good enough for the visitor.

It’s why the Stations of the Cross is an excuse to paint and clean from top to bottom and why weddings induce not only coronary infarctions, but brigades of tradespeople.

With the passing of the property boom, getting a house in order to sell is more important than ever.

In the old days, a bike shed with potential could be bid up to the stratosphere if it was in the right area, but now any house at all has to shine to sell.

And perversely, the more modest humble houses are holding their own and the big, snooty mansions are maturing like old cheese on auctioneers’ notice-boards.

The reason isn’t just down to the bubble-burst, but perhaps also down to a sharp re-appraisal of what’s important in life.

Like having enough money left over after the mortgage, or being able to live without a credit card or overdraft facility.

Or not wanting to spend anymore than is necessary to purchase a house, hence the need for a finished product.

With this in mind, first impressions for a property sale should start at the price and work from there.

Do not rely on the unfounded assumption that your house is going to be the only property in the whole of Ireland that will buck the market. It won’t.

And try not to get too insulted when you’re told that your particular pile is worth a lot less than you expect. Get a number of opinions and go with a meld of the advice given.

It may be quite normal for us to see property as an extension of ourselves, (isn’t that why the whole country went down the tubes?) but truly, it’s not healthy psychologically.

So step back, run a gimlet eye over your gaff and look at it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Or stand in the garden at evening time and look in. Is it inviting? Warm? Is the garden tidy and the exterior smart, or does it look a bit haphazard, untidy or worse, uncared for?

Then you need to get to work bearing in mind that awful phrase, ‘kerb appeal’.

Start at the outside and work in: draw up a list and itemise immediate remedial work.

Cut the grass and keep it shorn — it makes such a difference and a lot of people overlook this most basic approach.

Go a bit further and clip the edges and tidy the beds: cut out around trees and underplant with brightly coloured bulbs or annuals — it looks cheery and keeps down the weeds.

Paint the shed. Buy pots and fill them with shrubs. Put the pots in front of the shed and put more on the patio.

Spend a few bob on good garden furniture and lose the greyed plastic stuff, or if money is scarce, pick up a cheap but smart bistro set and see it work wonders.

Clip the hedges, paint the gate and pillars and if all of that’s too much — call in The Man.

Luckily, The Man is not too busy at the moment and should respond to your alarm cries with alacrity. Just nail down a price and let him off.

This will save time and effort for you, the householder, to get stuck into the interior. Again, assess the jobs that need doing and make those calls.

Book the painter for the week after the clear and clean, or block time off work and do the job yourself.

Either way, set out a clear, sensible time frame and tick details on or off the master list as you go along.

Then, begin the big clear-out.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of houses in my time and for me personally, an over-cleared house is sterile, lacklustre and bereft of personality.

Do take down family pictures if you must, (I’m not too nosy, but there are some out there that are) and get rid of bills and appointments or other personal letters, but leave the stuff that makes a house a home.

Hand-prints from playschool, paintings, ornaments, books and magazines all speak to a life led — they give an impression of a house for living in, not a showpiece.

Fresh flowers appeal to the same senses as fresh veg, it’s why supermarkets put them at the entrance, they conjure up all that we like to think of as wholesome and good — ditto at home.

Oh, and in terms of scent, it’s lovely to get a gentle whiff of essential oil — but blaring air freshener is another matter: as with all things in life, less is more.

I broke my rules and bought a few of those stick things in a bottle with a name like fresh cotton: what I got smelled like clothes drying on a radiator — win some, lose some.

But getting back to clutter, an untidy house is not pleasant to visit and it distracts utterly from that which you want to sell: namely, the house.

Keep it within limits and make sure every household member knows the rules: zero tolerance on untidiness is the only option.

Worse of all is a cluttered and dirty house — it will make you want to run a mile.

Honest to God, I did once have to kick an underpants under a bed on my way round — now that is not a way to sell a house.

What a vendor should aim for is something in between — you’re selling the lifestyle, but not the life, if you know what I mean.

It works on the same principle as a farmer’s market — throw in a bit of organic, a bit of down-home country and a bit of art and you have something that people will be drawn to and hopefully, love enough to buy.

In other words, be slightly original and you’ll attract more attention, but also stick to the knitting, art won’t save a draughty, ill-fitted house and make sure that everything works.

Selling your house is also the time for the mother of all spring cleanings and before that starts, you need some judicious pruning.

Get rooms cleared and pack all of the unused stuff for the charity shop, including those I’ll-get-into-them-someday, size 11 jeans, dire wedding outfits, fat clothes and ’90s evening wear — get rid.

And it becomes surprisingly cathartic, you soon get so into the swing of things that two skips later, you’re still firing stuff out.

And when the kitchen cupboards are empty, save them for the stuff you actually use, then you’re ready to start cleaning.

Think CSI, think strobe-lights on the bathroom, think truly, deeply, madly clean.

This is where the true grit and determination of the focussed house-seller comes to the fore and if you’re cute, you’ll co-opt the OCD friend who’s target for cleanliness is the operating theatre.

Once everything is washed, dusted and scrubbed, let the painter do his thing, but err on the side of caution when it comes to colour.

Check out magazines and come up with a compromise between what you think the market will take and your choice of magenta in the bedroom.

There is a stage, which I fondly refer to as chicken-with-head-cut-off where a crisis point is reached and there is lots of running around and quite a bit of squawking.

This is all quite natural and there to remind you that selling a house really is a big step — but, like eating the elephant, is best done calmly, cooly and a bit at a time. Go for it.

Report by Rose Martin - Irish Examiner

Saturday, 8 January 2011

New Year, New Price Drops...

RATHMICHAEL: €2.15M: A LARGE period house set on four acres just off the N11 in Rathmichael, Co Dublin has had its price cut almost 50 per cent

Cuilin, on Allies River Road came on the market exactly a year ago priced at €4.15 million. The price has now been dropped to €2.15 million in a bid to sell through joint agents Sherry FitzGerald and Lennox Estates.

The 396sq m (4,265sq ft) five-bedroom house has additional space in a coach-house and stables which have been refurbished and now include a games room and office. The grounds have also been restored and landscaped by the current owners who have lived at Cuilin since the late 1990s.

A walled garden of just under an acre has also been restored, with traditional divisions and walkways lined with box hedging.

The house is elegant and bright with the four large rooms downstairs and a fine curved landing upstairs.

The house is located at the end of Allies River Road, well screened from the N11 though you can hear traffic through the trees.

Irish Times

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

2011 House Prices At 2002 Levels...

House prices drop to 2002 levels after 14% fall last year...

HOUSE PRICES have fallen back to 2002 levels, according to reports released yesterday.

The average asking price for a home nationally fell by between 12 and 14 per cent in 2010, according to property reports from websites, and auctioneers Sherry FitzGerald.

All three reports found the rate of decline had slowed, but none predicted that the bottom of the market had yet been reached. However, real estate agents Savills said property in prime locations was unlikely to fall further.

Leitrim was the only county in the Republic where property prices did not fall last year, rising by 1.4 per cent in the last three months of 2010.

The average home has now dropped by between 35 and 48 per cent since the peak of the property boom, the reports found.’s latest property barometer found the average home now costs €217,000, over 13 per cent less than this time last year. Sherry FitzGerald put the national price drop at 12 per cent last year and said the drop was 14 per cent.

In Dublin, the fall in prices was greater. Homes in the capital lost between 12 and 15 per cent of their value in 2010 and values are now between 40 and 53 per cent weaker than at the peak, the reports said.

The average Dublin home now costs €317,000, down from €370,000 a year ago and €540,000 in 2006, said.

Homes in Limerick city lost over 17 per cent of their value last year, while the figures for Cork and Galway were over 15 per cent and almost 13 per cent respectively.

The average three-bed semi-detached home dropped by 20 per cent in Meath, by over 18 per cent in Clare, and by more than 16 per cent in Wexford and Kilkenny.

The cheapest three-bedroom semi-detached properties were in Longford, with an average price of €155,000, and the most expensive in Dublin, at €295,000 on average.

Annette Hughes, director of DKM Economic Consultants for, said that although prices were back to 2002, it was clear the bottom of the market had not yet been reached. Confidence remained weak, she said, but there was an overhang of potential buyers waiting to enter the market.

“The arguments supporting house purchases as a long-term investment decision may once again win out, particularly in good locations,” she said.

Not all parts of the country were adjusting at the same pace, Ronan Lyons, economist with, noted.

“It is the cities and in particular Dublin that are most likely to stabilise first, and it remains to be seen if this happens in 2011,” he said.

Marian Finnegan, chief economist with Sherry FitzGerald, said the significant reduction in stamp duty in the Budget was “undoubtedly good news for the property market”, but the greatest challenge would be the availability of credit.

Ronan O’Driscoll, head of residential at Savills, said three- to four-bedroom homes in traditionally well-located city areas were unlikely to fall further in price this year.

Report by FIONA GARTLAND - Irish Times