House Hunter: 'We need a family home in rural Ireland'

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The Independent Online

THE PROBLEM

THE PROBLEM

Sarah and Nick Sedgwick write: "We have lived in London for many years and have recently tried to move up the property ladder, without success. Several of our offers have fallen through and we are now desperate for more space as we have two small children.

"Lately, we've thought about upping sticks and moving out of London completely; the plan has now spiralled and, having spent many happy holidays in Dublin and all over Ireland, we've started to think about moving there. We really don't know where to start looking, however, apart from logging on to the internet. Friends of ours have moved to Ireland and seem to have a fantastic standard of living compared to ours even though they don't earn as much.

"The plan is very much in its infancy, but we would like some advice as to what the property market is like there. Nick would need to come back to London for work from time to time, so we must be near an airport.

"We would like as spacious a property as we can get for our money. We have a large amount of equity in our London home but we would like to keep our budget down to under £500,000 if possible, as this will give us a cushion of money until we find our feet.

"We want to be in the countryside, yet would also like to be within striking distance of a town or city, and would also need to consider schools for when our children reach that age. Being near to the coast would also be a bonus, although this isn't essential. We don't mind buying somewhere that needs work doing to it, although we have no idea how hard it would be to organise builders and so on over there. Any advice that House Hunter can give would be much appreciated."

THE ADVICE

Stephen Jeffery replies: "Unless Nick and Sarah have any particular reason to buy in the Dublin area, we highly recommend West Cork. The capital is expensive and, unless Nick had a job there, it wouldn't be very different to living in London.

"Many clients have moved from London to County Cork and all have settled well and love their new lifestyle. As a UK citizen, moving to the republic is remarkably easy, and thanks to modern communications, many people continue to run their business from home. Advantages include cheaper property prices, a lower cost of living and no council tax or water rates payable on existing properties.

"Cork is the largest county and, being in the Gulf Stream, it has the best weather. There is an airport, with regular, budget air-fares to many UK airports. You can be at home in Ireland in under two hours from London - whereas two hours drive out of London might get you no further than Windsor.

"Clonakilty, a popular town in west Cork, would put Nick and Sarah within an hour's drive of Cork airport and Ireland's second largest city. They can enjoy good shopping and schooling while living in the country, and make the most of the many sandy beaches nearby.

"While many Londoners initially want a farmhouse, most end up buying new build. Standards of renovation here are poor and many have been bodged. Most modern homes are faced in natural stone and always have a welcoming fireplace or two.

"These three properties are all within an hour of Cork city and airport and, with their budget, Nick and Sarah could afford to live within a few minutes' walk of a sandy beach.

"UK residents should be aware that real estate agents in Ireland, known here as auctioneers, are unregulated, so information on houses is generally poor, may be misleading, and digital photographs can be touched up.

"Unless you know the area and local prices, you may easily be tricked into thinking that a house is cheap, when it is hugely overpriced. Rather than rely on agents who have the gift of the gab and want only the best price for the vendor, our advice is to get someone working for you. Then, buying property in Ireland can really be a pleasure and remarkably easy."

Stephen Jeffery is the managing director of The Property Finders in Ireland (00353 23 46688 e-mail: ireland @thepropertyfinders.com)

THE SOLUTION

Property one: Restored cottage in Dunworley.

Price: €535,000 (£358,000).

Agent's details: Located six miles east of Clonakilty, this restored and extended cottage is within a couple of hundred yards from Dunworley beach and has fabulous sea views. The property is ready to move into, there are three or four bedrooms, two large reception rooms, as well as a bathroom, utility, cloakroom and studio. The property could be extended further.

Property two: Restored farmhouse near Timoleague.

Price: €475,000 (£320,000).

Agent's details: Some 600 yards inland, eight miles east of Clonakilty and around 40 minutes' drive from the airport, this is a rare example of a properly restored farmhouse with cottage, which have been linked together to provide a very large home in a rural yet handy location. There are four bedrooms, three reception rooms, a huge kitchen/ breakfast room, three bathrooms, as well as garaging and lovely mature gardens with tennis court. Ready to move into.

Property three: New house near Clonakilty.

Price: €590,000 (£395,000).

Agent's details: This is a new, but characterful, house that is faced in natural stone. It has rural views and a large, landscaped garden. There are five bedrooms (four en suite), three receptions, a fully fitted kitchen, and a conservatory and garage with room above, which would make an ideal studio or office. This would be an ideal home in a prestigious part of west Cork for a family who require a low-maintenance luxury home close to the many facilities of Clonakilty.

THE VERDICT

"We are getting very excited about the prospect of Ireland as these huge properties all sound wonderful. It's amazing to think we could exchange our poky terrace for any of them and be right near the coast as well.

"We like the sound of being based around west Cork and understand that there are lots of Londoners who've settled there easily and been made to feel welcome. Stephen pointed out that this isn't always the case, so it's great to get advice from someone who obviously really knows their area. Being near Cork airport would be ideal for getting back to London cheaply and easily for work, and for when friends and family visit.

"Stephen has also alerted us to the benefits of using an independent buying agent in a place where estate agents are less regulated and where we really have no clue as to local prices.

"He also warned us about agents who digitally remove 'eye sores' before posting images on the net. We'd hate to find that a house we thought was set in rolling acres of countryside was in fact surrounded by a caravan park."

If you would like House Hunter's help, write to House Hunter, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail with full details: househunter@independent.co.uk

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