realestate

Expats return to Dublin to find a transformed property market


Among the record level of Irish expats returning to their homeland in the past few months is Sean, a Dublin-born tech executive who moved from Battersea in south-west London in April. Currently staying with family, he and his wife are shopping for a home.

Covid was the final straw in our decision to move back home sooner than we had intended,” says Sean, 42, who did not want to give his real name. “Brexit played its part, but we wanted to be close to family.”

The latest available figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), show that 28,900 Irish nationals returned home to live and work in the year end to April 2020 — the highest number in 13 years. Ireland’s population is growing fast, and last year the CSO predicted that Dublin’s population will increase by nearly a third before 2036, to 1.76m.

Whether those heading home will recognise the property market they left is another matter. It is neither booming — as it did in the years prior to 2007 — nor spectacularly crashing as it then did until 2012, instead there is a shortage of housing supply. 

The stock of new homes for sale is close to a record low, says Dermot O’Leary, chief economist at Goodbody, the stockbroker. “In 2019, 21,138 homes were built in Ireland. This year we forecast 16,648, but there needs to be 34,000 per annum.”

That said, prices in Dublin are falling. In the year to September, house prices fell 1.6 per cent and flats fell 0.6 per cent, according to the CSO.

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A four-bedroom house in Rathmines, Dublin 6, €1.2m through Knight Frank
A four-bedroom house in Rathmines, Dublin 6, €1.2m through Knight Frank

The interior
The interior

Nevertheless, Hong Kong-based dentist Eugene Chan thinks the city is a good investment. He is shopping for a new two-bedroom apartment in the city centre, with a budget of €800,000-€1m, for his son, who will be studying dentistry at Trinity College Dublin.

“Dublin is an important tech hub, in an English-speaking country in the EU, and has a great quality of life, so I feel very confident about buying there,” he says. 

Adding to demand for sales and rentals are Google employees in Dublin, a number of whom left the city during the pandemic, but have since been instructed to return by the end of the year for tax and legal reasons, it has been reported. Four Google execs are among those who have purchased at Hanover Court, a mixed-use block of 40 apartments in Grand Canal Dock.

“Recent sales included a Boston-based Irish buyer and a Dubai-based Google employee,” says Stephanie Patterson of Lisney, the sales agent.

But there are slim pickings if you are looking for a new apartment because 49 per cent of new homes being built in Dublin are being sold in job lots by developers to institutional investors for private rental sector (PRS) schemes, or to local councils for social housing. 

Dublin map web

Rental rates in Dublin city centre are high, having steadily risen since 2011. According to the property website daft.ie, the average monthly rent in Dublin City centre in Q3 was €2,035 (£1,822), down by 2.3 per cent; the more expensive South City is now €2,139, down by 1.3 per cent. By comparison, the average rent in inner London in October was about €2,417, according to Hamptons International. 

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Dublin’s rental rates have dropped for the first time in nine years after rental stock doubled from 1,400 in November 2019 to more than 2,700 a year later, says Ronan Lyons, assistant professor of economics at Trinity College. “The collapse in short-stay tourism during the pandemic has brought about a redistribution from the short-term lettings segment to the long-term rental sector.”

He says that declining household size and substantial inward migration mean that at least 60,000 more rental homes are needed to help bring rents back in line with regular incomes, such as those outside big tech. 

Rose, who did not want to give her last name, works in the city’s arts sector and rents in the northern suburbs. “There’s no way I can ever own a property in Dublin and I can’t afford the rental rates in the centre,” she says. 

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But it’s the prime residential areas of Dublin where many expats from the UK, Hong Kong, Dubai and Australia are looking to buy, says Ray Palmer-Smith of Knight Frank’s Irish office: “Some only want Dublin 4 [Ballsbridge, Sandymount and Donnybrook],” he adds.

Sean is considering The Collection, seven new-build four-storey town houses on Shrewsbury Road — one of Dublin’s most expensive streets — that cost from €4m. Another option is Monterey, nine houses overlooking the beach of Sandymount Strand on Dublin Bay, starting from €1.65m.

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Dublin 6 is the other prime central district requested by buyers, primarily Ranelagh, Rathmines and Rathgar, especially for the schools, says Michael Grehan, chairman of Sherry FitzGerald estate agents.

“To these I would add coastal Blackrock, Monkstown, Malahide, Dalkey and Killiney, where the water sports scene has grown fast. Some buyers just want to see water, and they don’t care which sea it is,” he says.

Buying guide

  • In the year to September, the most expensive Eircode (postcode) area was Dublin 6, with a mean price of €745,346, followed by Dublin 4 at €733,223 and A94 Blackrock at €704,135, according to the CSO.

  • Land Registry fees operate on a sliding scale, from €400 for properties up to €50,000, to €800 for properties worth more than €400,000.

 What you can buy for . . .

  • €475,000 A small, two-bedroom Victorian house in Dublin 3, through Sherry FitzGerald

  • €1.2m A four-bedroom house in Rathmines, Dublin 6, through
    Knight Frank

  • €5.5m A grand, nine-bedroom Victorian house in 3.65 acres near Killiney Beach, through Lisney

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