Interest in rural property soars as Covid-19 effect kicks in

Charlie McCarthy, an auctioneer who has sold houses, farms and even islands in west Cork for almost half a century, takes the calls on Coom Hill as he looks out on to the Atlantic.

The last time the telephone rang so frequently back in his Skibbereen office was amid Cold War hysteria in mainland Europe during the 1970s, when German newspapers argued that west Cork was the safest place to avoid the impact of nuclear conflict.

“The Germans and the Dutch came over in their droves. It was to do with the prevailing southwesterly winds,” he says.

In recent weeks, the phone has been ringing off the hook again.

“The interest is unbelievable. Covid has made a lot of people think. There is a realisation now you can work remotely, hold meetings on Zoom. People are hankering for a better lifestyle, they want to raise their families as well.”

Last week, he put up a property online asking €575,000. A City worker in London made an immediate offer of €550,000.

The Government could capitalise on this now, to revitalise towns and villages

“I said you need to come see it. They said: ‘No, we’ve seen it online. We know the area well. We want to get out of London’.”

While the recent high-profile sale of nearby Horse Island, for €5.5 million to a mystery overseas buyer who bought without seeing it in person, has drawn “high-end” attention to the area, McCarthy says interest is “way up” in all price brackets.

Online searches

The claim is borne out by an analysis of online house-hunting.

Angela Keegan, managing director of property website, which is owned by The Irish Times, says searches for houses in west Cork have gone “through the roof” since the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions – “Up about 9,000 per cent.”

The figure is based on relatively small numbers. However, trends nationally show a definite shift by would-be house-buyers, many of whom have been forced to reflect on their way of life since the pandemic.

Online searches for properties in Schull in west Cork during June were up 300 times compared with the same month last year. Rosscarbery saw a 4.5 times jump, while searches for Clonakilty and Kinsale were 3.5 times greater.

There has been an almost 150 per cent spike in interest in Kerry properties, mainly in Kenmare, Killarney and Tralee, with similar surges for Waterford, driven mostly by a fourfold jump in queries about Dungarvan.

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