By Carol Tallon (@CarolTallon)
It has been a long time since house-hunting was talked about in Ireland in a tone that is not hushed and cautious.
The optimism of a new start, a new home and a new life has been replaced with the knowledge that people are still hurting from the effects of building their dream.
It is difficult to assess the current Irish property market without speaking in terms of recovery and bench-marking that recovery to some earlier point, either pre or post boom or bust.
We consider the role of rising prices in the context of existing negative equity. We know that the buyer psyche has changed dramatically over the past decade, for better and for worse. Most of all, we speak of learning from past mistakes to the point where it is easy to forget about newcomers to the market.
Those 30-something buyers who have perhaps returned from a decade of working abroad with good career prospects and sizeable cash deposits.
Or perhaps they have been working consistently in Ireland, accepting austerity measures, saving their deposit and waiting.
And there has been waiting; waiting for the right time; waiting for the right property; waiting for the latest property guru to drop the flag and say ‘Go’.
These would-be buyers are unburdened by the trauma of the market collapse in recent years. Their interest in past performance of the market is historic only, the sole purpose of it is in deciphering trends and gauging current market value.
Unlike our active investors and seasoned home-buyers, they are not working from comparisons and can therefore readily accept the market as it is.
For rural buyers or those buying outside of the main cities, they find themselves heartened by the signs of recovery, and while stock is diminishing, there is adequate supply and not excessive competition.
In short, the opportunity for a good buy still exists, despite the call out for new development nationally.
Unfortunately first time buyers in Dublin, Cork and Galway will not have the same experience.
They are likely to be pouncing on property sales websites alerts (set up to notify them of newly listed properties within their chosen areas) within moments of the email hitting their inbox.
Estate agents today know their serious house-hunters by name and they know the requirements of those intending buyers by rote.
With the length of time a property takes to sell actually creeping back up, even in the city areas, it is important for agents to distinguish between hobby house-hunters and those buyers who are actively ready to buy.
I feel it is important to be clear here, it is the buyers’ responsibility to position themselves as serious contenders.
The best way to do this is to be consistent on what type of property is sought, in what area(s) and how it will be financed.
Proof of finance is an automatic requirement at offer stage and has been for the last number of years. In my experience, only time-wasters object to this so it fulfills its purpose.
Of course, what today’s buyer might not realise it that they are actually working to an advantage over recent past buyers as they have a much greater degree of certainty about the short term marketplace, insofar as any marketplace is certain.
What they know is that any pent up demand has been all but spent. They know that whatever houses are available today are all that they have to choose from for the next twelve months, at least.
A quick search through their local authority planning section for commencement notices will confirm this. Interest rates are as predictable as they have ever been and any increases in the short to medium-term will be moderate.
To my mind, the question for intending buyers is quite a simple one, providing finance is accessible: whether to buy from the available stock today or wait or twelve to 18 months for new, perhaps more suitable stock to hit the market?
There is no right answer, this is a personal decision. Price increase forecasts over this period are marginal and the recent drop in month-on-month prices in Dublin supports this forecast. In the absence of a crystal ball, this is the most likely indicator we have.