There were double-takes all round last Monday when the Permanent tsb /ESRI house price index announced a 24% drop since February 2007 – a figure many believe to be conservative in the extreme.
It's difficult to find out exactly what a property sells for as, under the Data Protection Act, publication of selling prices is prohibited and information is therefore based on asking price. Those involved in the business believe a truer estimate of just how far property prices have plummeted is between 40% and 50%. And counting.
Ronan O'Driscoll, director of new homes at Savills, points to "the concrete example" of his own home. "I bought it for €1.9m in 2006, but one on the same road sold recently for around €850,000."
The new homes landscape has changed radically in ways other than price, he adds, saying that negotiating a deal on a brand-new property is now similar to a second-hand deal. But activity is scant in terms of brand-new launches and sales.
"There won't be any genuinely new launches for several years. Realistically, when is the next builder going to open up a new site to develop? What you will see are the next phases of existing developments coming up, perhaps with a name change."
With prices at near giveaway levels, Manor Park Homebuilders have taken that concept literally with a 'Win A Showhouse' competition. The prize is a new two-bedroom showhouse at Barnwell Hansfield, off the Ongar Road, near Blanchardstown shopping centre, Dublin 15. According to Manor Park MD John Moran, the value of the house is €250,000 and it comes fully fitted with everything. "It is ready to move into; just bring your toothbrush."
Ken McDonald says first-time buyers can find plenty of choice in the €200,000-€350,000 bracket. There is a lot of interest, even if not an equal number of transactions, suggests McDonald. "The autumn is not going to be spectacular, but our office was buoyed up throughout the summer with plenty of enquiries."
Among the schemes still attracting interest is the Herberton development, off South Circular Road, Dublin 8. With a location opposite a Luas stop and prices substantially reduced, buying an apartment might be a shrewd move for first-timers. One-beds are now priced from €175,000 and two-beds from €199,000 (reductions of up to €150,000 since the launch, says agent Hooke & MacDonald).
The same agent is jointly selling Wyckham Point in Dundrum with Sherry FitzGerald New Homes, recording 30 sales since May of two-beds priced from €339,000. Castlethorn Construction has launched the final phase of Belarmine, Stepaside, Dublin 18, offering apartments with prices from €175,000. The Gallery, Donabate, which was launched in June, has resulted in 25 sales. Two-bed apartments here are priced from €195,000.
Ivan Gaine, recently appointed director of new homes with Sherry FitzGerald, says those seeking a house rather than an apartment can buy a three-bed semi in the Holywell development in Kilcoole, priced from just €299,000. Three-bed houses in The Hastings, Balbriggan are priced from €169,000 through the same agent.
"There is strong activity for properties under €350,000, but there has also been a noticeable increase of inquiries for higher-end family homes, with a handful of deals at €1m-plus to include Claremount in Carrickmines and Farmleigh, Castleknock," he says. "Also in the pipeline is a development of family homes coming to the market over the next few weeks."
Jordan Auctioneers is handling enquiries for two different house styles, at reduced prices, at the Hawthorn Wood development in Suncroft village, Kildare. These large (2,500-3,000 sq ft) four- and five-bed houses are now priced from €450,000-€540,000.
According to Ronan O'Driscoll, the market for new homes has been tricky for much longer than many may realise. "It goes back much further than the start of the economic decline last September. The last really good sales month for us was back in July 2006. Builders are now offering property at near below construction prices. There is nowhere left to go," says O'Driscoll.