Rent rather than buy? Changing housing markets in a changing Ireland

  • Home ownership levels drop below 70%
  • 30% of Dublin residents now rent homes
  • Untapped potential for long-term residential market

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Dublin, 24th October 2012: The Irish property market has changed fundamentally in a short space of time and for many the gloss has gone off home ownership, according to Dr. Lorcan Sirr, lecturer in the School of Real Estate and Construction Economics at DIT.

Speaking today at the National Construction Conference in Dublin, Sirr said “There is finally recognition that renting is good for the economy, bringing with it economic mobility and little risk especially for personal savings. Government housing policy is changing to better balance the options of owning or renting.”

In his presentation to delegates at the Conference, Dr. Sirr highlighted some recent statistics in relation to residential renting. Home ownership levels are now down below 70% in Ireland and 18.5% are now renting – a figure similar to that in the late 1950s. In Dublin over 30% of residents now rent their accommodation.

“It’s not only those numbers that are surprising - it’s the rate of change: nationally, those renting are up nearly 50% in the last five years. The problem is, the property market is not ready for this change, leading to a shortage of decent accommodation, especially for families.”

Dr. Sirr described three significant elements that are influencing the rental market in Ireland:

1) The type of renter is changing: the new renters are almost the opposite of the stereotypical renter: they are choosy; traditionally ‘mortgageable’; previous owners with lump sums in the banks they’re not willing to risk on property ownership; over 65s; DOODs (don’t own or drive); and families;

2) What they want is different: no more damp basement flats. They want flexible single- and multi-storey units; shell only with layout options; 60m2 – 150m2; separate storage for skis, roofbox etc. and laundry (ground floor, basement); multi-aspect; high-standard finishes; secure bicycle parking; and professional management preferably with live-in maintenance; transparent fees. And to be able to rent for the long-term with security of tenure. Essentially they want a home without the debt.

3) But where they want to live hasn’t changed – traditional, well-established suburban locations are still a main draw.

At this moment, according to Dr. Sirr “The demand is there, the need is there, but the accommodation is not! The market has a need for professional landlords who will apply the principles of commercial property investment to residential development: good accommodation means better tenants with more security of income.”

The conference takes place today at Croke Park.

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