Brits benefit from price collapse over the Irish Sea

Plummeting house values and the pound's strength has attracted UK buyers to Ireland, reports Richard Way

Brits with a soft spot for the Emerald Isle and migrants ready to move back home are taking advantage of rock bottom property prices and the weaker euro to snap up bargain homes in Ireland, the likes of which most could never afford in the UK.

Property values in Ireland are deemed to have bottomed out this year after crashing by 50 per cent or more from the market's peak in 2007. By the first half of 2012, the price of a dream cottage in the Irish countryside grew increasingly attractive to UK buyers thanks to a fall in strength of the euro against sterling.

"Old farmhouses with land are especially good value," says Mary Cotter, who runs estate agency Irish Rural Homes in West Cork. "You can sell your terraced home in the UK and with the proceeds over here buy yourself a home in good condition with an acre of land and views, typically for about €150,000 (£122,000). We've seen sales to British buyers increase by around 20 per cent year on year."

Sterling gained steadily against the euro in the first half of 2012, from around £1/€1.19 in January to over €1.28 towards the end of July. "The difference in the rate during the first seven months of the year made a €150,000 property nearly £9,000 cheaper to a sterling buyer," says Alex Willson of currency specialist Smart Currency Exchange, who is working with an increasing numbers of agents to help UK buyers save money on currency transfers.

The coast from Rosslare in Wexford, with its ferry service from Fishguard and Pembroke in Wales, down to the south-western tip of West Cork is popular for its stunning coastal scenery, access from the UK – via Cork airport as well as ferry, and milder climate, thanks to the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Property there rocketed during the boom years driven by wealthy foreigners, or "blow-ins", buying coastal bolt-holes in areas such as Kinsale, Schull, Bantry Bay and the Sheep's Head Peninsula.

Away from the coast and in stark contrast, Kieron Knight from Newcastle is about to complete on a two-bedroom stone cottage with an acre of land a few miles west of Macroom. He's paying just €60,000 for the property, plus €2,000 in buying costs, but plans to spend around €100,000 restoring and extending it. The finished product will initially be a second home to enjoy with wife Susan and their two children, but at some point they'd like to move there for the better way of life.

"Susan is Irish so we've thought about moving to Ireland for a long time," says Kieron, who owns a detergent manufacturing company. "Before the property crash we couldn't afford to buy and then after the downturn kicked in the exchange rate went close to parity, so we waited until we felt the time was just right."

UK buyers are discovering deals can get even better in lesser trodden areas of Ireland, particularly in the central Border Region. Here, in the town of Ballinamore in County Leitrim, agent Gordon Hughes has seen sales to UK buyers surge to around 70 per cent of his total business this year.

"The area has the lowest property prices nationally and lowest population," says Mr Hughes. "The majority of properties in this area are for sale below their build cost, such as four-bedroom bungalows of around 2,000 sqft in excellent condition and on an acre of land, which are selling for around €150,000. At the peak of the market in 2007 these would have sold for approximately €300,000."

Aside from price, Leitrim and neighbouring Cavan and Rosscommon counties, are attractive because of their proximity to Northern Ireland, including the town of Enniskillen, says Mr Hughes. It means British homeowners here are only a short drive from familiar UK shops, the NHS system – Enniskillen has a new hospital – and British banks, which is especially useful for residents, or part-time residents, who prefer to leave savings or assets in sterling, given the uncertainty of the euro.

The area's lakes and canals, including the Shannon-Erne Waterway, are another undiscovered secret, although not to keen fisherman Steve Taylor from East Sussex, who this year bought a two-bedroom stone cottage just outside Ballinamore for around €119,000.

"I've been going to Leitrim for 25 years for the fishing – you can have a lake to yourself all day there," says 63-year-old Steve. "In April this year, my wife Stacey and I decided to look at the possibility of buying a cottage as a second home.

"We knew that since the crash, prices had fallen dramatically and that 20 per cent of property was unoccupied. Prices had reached a level that enabled us to buy in cash and locals I know in the area were telling me now is the time to buy. Owning our cottage is much more fun than having the slowly diminishing ISAs and savings it has replaced."

The Taylors' property sits on a 1.25 acre plot, has views across a canal and fields to the Iron Mountains, and, having been restored in the past 10 years, needs no work doing to it.

"We were concerned we might cause resentment by taking advantage of the plight of the local people, but everyone told us they'd rather have houses properly maintained and new money coming into the economy than see them empty," added Steve.

Buyers in the central Border Region aren't just second homeowners – a number move permanently. James Spring of agency Peter Donohoe & Son Real Estate Alliance, says: "Now we see couples with young children, people looking for a self-sufficient lifestyle and older couples retiring or wanting to be nearer children and grandchildren. You also get people who were born in Ireland, but have lived in the UK most of their life, returning 'home'."

Susan Evans, 59 and from Bridgend, is typical of the returning migrant. Born in Dublin but having lived in the UK since her teens, she is in the process of buying a three-bed house six miles from Ballinamore with her partner Raymond. Susan is already retired from the South Wales Police Dog and Mounted Section and as soon as it's financially viable, the couple will relocate to Ireland.

With around 1,100sqft of living space and a garden, Susan's property is a bank repossession, which might explain the purchase price – just €69,000.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Property search
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat