Yesterday the Irish Times reported that the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PRSA) hope to have a property register live by June 2012 that will give information on house price sales and commercial leases for 2010 and 2011.  The register will give a valuable insight into the housing and commercial market going forward and is to be welcomed.  What it won’t do is give us a detailed retrospective view of the property market at the tail of the boom and through the crash given the 2010 base date.

In collaboration with Ronan Lyons, Oxford University and economist at daft.ie, NIRSA through its AIRO project has been working on producing a set of maps charting various aspects of the housing market including asking price and rental yield using Daft.ie‘s database.  This database includes over 980,000 rental observations and over 600,000 sales observations from 2006 through to the present day.  Importantly, the maps are at sub-county scale, plotted into over 1,000 geographical units made of aggregates of EDs and EAs.  We hope to launch the interactive mapping tool in the coming weeks, but thought we’d give a brief taster on IAN of some of the preliminary output.  The maps below are examples of our initial work and look at 3 bed semi (or equivalent) deciles of asking price , rental asking price, and rental yield. The new mapping tool will contain sales and rental prices for 2-bed, 3-bed, 4-bed and a weighted average for all 1-5 beds. Prices wil be avilable for the peak (2007 q3), current prices (2011 q3) and % fall in the average price.

Once the interactive mapping tool is launched we’ll provide some more maps and analysis of the material.

Justin Gleeson and Rob Kitchin

Three stories in today’s Irish Times property supplement that reveal something of the death of the Irish property dream.  Alison O’Riordan bought the dream.  She paid €525,000 for an apartment, where those  in a neighbouring block are now selling for €190,000.  This is what she had to say:

It’s such a bitter taste of defeat as I stare out my window each morning that I leave the blind down continually … As a homeowner, my load was already heavy enough to carry as, stuck with a property I cannot sell, I struggle to meet my monthly repayments …I chastise myself for incarcerating myself in my own financial prison. A prison, I soon learned, that had no more than about 10 inmates.  … I am so worried, I can hardly think of anything else … At least I can put the newspaper down or flick over the page, however there is no getting away from the apartments across the street. … Yesterday the bill for the management fee came in. It is for €1,600 – another figure I carefully choose to ignore back then.”

And she’s far from the only one locked in a financial prison.  Over 250,000 mortgage holders are in negative equity.  For those that have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts, they are struggling to pay the bills and over 36,000 are over 90 days in mortgage arrears. The dream has turned very sour for many and the stress is chewing up their lives.

And the property supplement lets another set of people know the extent of financial hole they are in.  A 62-unit apartment complex in Booterstown has prices half what apartments in a similar adjacent development went for during the boom years.  One bed apartments for €215,000; two-bed from €289,000; two-bedroom duplex from €355,000.  The one beds are still six and half times the average industrial wage.  A complex in Leopardstown start at €210,000, selling at 40-50% the price of when they were first released in 2008.  A bitter pill for those who had already bought in the complex and similar apartment blocks nearby.

And finally, Meath County Councillor are selling five houses that were bought compulsorarily for the M3 motorway but were not demolished.  The units are up to 80% the price they would have fetched at the top of the boom and before the motorway was built on their doorstep.  Interestingly they warn that the properties may need ‘entire rebuilding – “as they haven’t been lived in for about six years”.’   So, houses that were family homes that have not been lived in for six years may need to be knocked and rebuilt.  Well, that confirms the clock on doing something re. the unfinished and ghost estates around the country.  Many of these estates have already been empty since 2006/07, so they’re very much on short time before the bulldozer may need to be bought in as they may not be fit for purpose.

Reading the property supplement can indeed be bad for your health.

Rob Kitchin

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern today said statutory responsibility for publishing property sales prices will be given to the Property Services Regulatory Authority, which will be put on a statutory footing.

It is hoped that sale prices will be published and a database will be maintained by the DEHLG. This should lead to a much greater level of transparency in the housing market and finally provide accurate and timely details on property price trends. It has yet to be revealed as to what spatial scale and detail the data will be available at.

Mr Ahern has yet to table the required amendments to the Data Protection Acts. This will be done at the next Dail session. This leaves some time to get discussion going on what needs to be made available through the PSRA.

“The Property Services Regulatory Authority will be in a position to ensure timely publication of this data as soon as the legislation is enacted later this year.” (IT 10/08/2010)

This seems like a good step in the right direction.

Justin Gleeson

Recent attention to the closure, followed by re-opening, of Carluccio’s (Which itself had only recently replaced the long-established Graham O’Sullivan’s) on Dawson Street in Dublin raises a number of interesting issues regarding city centre rents, recent planning practices, and attitudes to retail trade amongst a number of bodies within Dublin city centre.

Brown Thomas Display, Wicklow Street, Dublin 2008. Photo by Philip Lawton

Throughout the boom years a number of prime retail areas in the city centre were designated by Dublin City Council as Architectural Conservation Areas (ACA’s), and, directly connected to this, Schemes of Special Planning Control (SSPC) (An area had to be designated as an ACA in order to become a  SSPC). While seeming somewhat innocuous in their own right, there was a particular rational for so many retail areas to be designated as such. A primary aim of a Scheme of Special Planning Control is to remove what are perceived as ‘undesirable uses’ (fast food outlets, convenience stores) and attain ‘Higher Value Uses’, or ‘niche’ shopping, in an area. Furthermore, such uses, it is perceived, will then attract higher rents, and higher land values which would support more of the same higher end uses. However, in reality, prior to the bust, it seemed it was those stores that were best able to pay higher rents that remained in an area where land values were going up. This, somewhat ironically, includes fast-food outlets, such as McDonalds and Burger King.

While the above connections may seem slightly tentative, the introduction of  the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) model to Dublin is more explicit in terms of the connection between the re-ordering and increased control of urban space and higher land-values. Just over a year and a half ago, the designation of much of the city centre area as a BID was heralded for its ability “to increase footfall, decrease crime, increase property values and overall trading performance.” Therefore, it must be assumed that the potential for higher rent generation is also perceived as one of the positive outcomes of the BID. Given that the Dublin City Business Association was directly involved with, and lobbied for the introduction of, the BID, it must also be assumed that they were also in favour of higher rents. Now, as illustrated by recent reports, and despite the removal of upward only rent reviews, city centre retailers, such as the owner of Korky’s shoe store on Grafton Street, are becoming increasingly worried about the impact of the retention of higher rents that they cannot afford on the future viability of their business.

If it is these high rental values which are now turning out to be the nemesis of the viability of trading in the city centre, the question must be asked as to why higher land-values were heralded as one of the positive outcomes of the BID mechanism. It seems that the desire for more up-market  land-uses only ads to an already existing cycle of unsustainable rent increases, which in turn, as evidenced by the growing number of empty units on streets such as Grafton Street, leads to vacancy.

Philip Lawton

The recently closed West Jewellers on the corner of Grafton Street and South Anne Street with another vacant retail premises in the background. Photo by Philip Lawton, 2010

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