Since posting on the number of under-construction ghost estates in Ireland last week, we’ve been asked how many vacant houses there are in Ireland.  There is no exact figure released by any state agency, but by using Census 2006 and Dept of Environment, Local Government and Heritage, and making a couple of assumptions based on our analysis of these data, we can come up with an estimate – 302,625.  This figure includes vacant houses available for sale, vacant houses available for rent, vacant houses that are not on the market, under-counted second and holiday homes, and abandoned properties, but does not include 49,798 holiday homes recorded in 2006 census.  This is not a measure of availability but vacancy (some of which is available to the market now, and some of which will become available when prices rise/demand returns, some of which will not become available).

This is how we’ve calculated it.

The average housing vacancy rate in Ireland, as reported in the 2006 Census, was 12.5% , which consisted of 216,533 units – 174,935 houses and 41,598 apartments (the vacancy rate rose to 15% if it included holiday homes).  The pattern of vacancies varied from 9.5% in Dublin up to 21.4% in Leitrim (or 9.5% in Dublin and 29% in Leitrim if holiday homes are included – see the map we posted here).  Let’s assume that 10% of these properties are no longer vacant (which seems reasonable given the vacancy rate has been climbing not falling, and the market first softened then dropped markedly from the end of 2006) meaning that 194,880 still are.

In 2006 there were 93,419 housing completions – some of these would have been captured in the Census (undertaken in April 06) but we’re assuming two thirds were not, some 60,700 units.  78,027 properties were built in 2007, 51,724 in 2008 and an estimated 25,000 were completed in 2009 (there were 14,279 units completed in Q1+Q2 2009 and we’re assuming a slow down in the latter part of the year).  That gives us a total of 215,451 houses built between April 2006 and Dec 2009.  We estimate that about 50 percent of these properties are occupied.  If that’s the case then 107,725 are vacant.

According to the Q3 Geodirectory release there are 1,981,513 residential units in the state.

Taken together (194,880 + 107,725) means that 302,625 residential units, out of 1,981,513 in the state, are vacant (though not all of these are necessarily available for sale or rent).  That is a vacancy rate of just over 15% (not including holiday homes).

We think that this is a realistic assessment given the housing market over the past couple of years.  Of course, a certain small percentage of housing stock is always going to be unoccupied given its state and location vis-a-vis demand, but even so it’s clear that there is presently a large amount of vacant houses and an large oversupply of residential property (and also business property – see our post here).  This over-supply is likely to keep prices low for some time, even when the market flattens out and demand starts to grow again, and restrain any return to large-scale residential property development for the foreseeable future.

We have provided a further explanation of these figures see here.  For a post comparing NIRSA figures with DKM/DEHLG, Goodbody and UCD figures see here.

Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin