people hoping to trade up to a larger house or apartment – or those simply wishing to sell their property – may well have had their ambitions thwarted by last week's budget. Finance minister Brian Lenihan's decision to decrease maximum tax relief for non-first-time buyers will have done nothing to ignite the depressed secondhand market. And raising relief for first-time buyers is unlikely to lead to a marked reduction in the number of ageing For Sale signs festooning properties all around the country, given the government's new Home Choice Loan scheme is available only to first-time buyers of new properties.
Karl Deeter, operations manager with Irish Mortgage Brokers, pulls no punches in his condemnation of the new scheme which will see local authorities enter the mortgage market with loans of up to 92% of the value of a purchased property up to a maximum of €285,000.
"It's a textbook builders' bailout," he says. "Suddenly you're going to see an awful lot of units presented as €300,000 properties. The fact is the banks won't lend on a lot of property because they know that prices are going to fall further. You might as well call this the Guaranteed Negative Equity Scheme.
"I think it's disgraceful that Brian Lenihan sold out his country for the sake of his old builder buddies. I was on a radio show with Tom Parlon last Tuesday before the budget details were announced. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat, because he knew exactly what was coming down the line."
Deeter claims there's nothing in the budget to suggest current vendors will be taking down those For Sale signs anytime soon. "Non-first-time buyers are usually that bit older. They're more likely to have children and may well have a parent in a nursing home. Even that allowance has been hacked."
Anona Hickey probably shares Deeter's pessimism. Her four-bed detached house measures 228sq m and is situated on a half-acre site, four miles from Swords. Despite knocking a whopping €300,000 off the original €1.1m asking price, the property, which has been on the market with agents Savilles HOK since February 2007, remains unsold. "I'm very disappointed in the budget," she says. "There's a huge amount of secondhand property knocked down to the same price range as ours and I thought there'd be something in there for us.
"I actually had a disagreement with the estate agent with regards to dropping the price because I felt a lack of confidence in the market is the real issue. We took the big hit immediately, rather than doing it in dribs and drabs. I thought that would surely stimulate interest. On top of that, a lot of people round here who couldn't sell are now renting their properties instead and I felt that anyone looking to buy a house in the area would regard ours as a bargain. I have to say, there hasn't been a lot of interest shown. I do have a lot of sympathy with first-time buyers, but they're not the only purchasers out there."
Neil Doherty, director of Sellityourself.ie, is disappointed but not surprised that there is nothing in the detail of the finance minister's first budget to enthuse anyone hoping to sell their home.
"There is no question but that the budget is a disappointment. In reality though, we knew the government wasn't keen on dipping its hand into the property market to give it a push. So we weren't really expecting assistance."
According to Doherty, potential vendors are increasingly aware that managing to sell your apartment or house is no longer the effortless task it once was.
"A couple of years back, properties sold themselves," he says. "All you had to do was put an advert on an internet site and 10 buyers walked in the door. Today more owners are opting to sell themselves because of what they perceive as a lack of action in relation to properties that estate agents are trying to sell. Because there's now a lot of effort and cost involved, agents are cutting back and concentrating on those properties that are easier to sell."
In a buyers' market, more vendors are coming to appreciate that they cannot afford to set their selling price in stone.
"Purchasers are hammering home a very hard bargain to the seller. And this budget won't change that fact." Doherty says.
Ron Cregan of Colliers Jackson Stops agrees. "I'd say up to 15% of our recent clients have negotiated on price. However, some sellers have taken a lot of equity out of what they have, be it for a foreign property or whatever. And there's a certain limit beyond which they can't go."
In his budget analysis, Niall Rynne, managing director of the Mortgage Bureau, strikes a sanguine note. "The new government scheme should stimulate sales and that should be good for the entire market. The banking situation is the big issue as far as providing mortgages is concerned and I'm not sure there is anything Brian Lenihan could have done about that.
"A lot of the secondhand buyers we would be dealing with have been precluded from buying because they haven't been able to sell the house they own."
"I'm disappointed that something wasn't done on the stamp duty issue," says Suzanne McGuinness, marketing manager with IFG Ireland. "The need to reinvigorate the market should be tackled from a variety of angles, not just one or two.
"Studies have shown that loan ability on its own isn't enough to stimulate the market. Having said that, I don't expect property values to decrease further to any significant extent."