SKIBBEREEN has been named as one of the towns which has experienced the most dramatic rise in property prices in the past year.
That is probably no great surprise to anyone watching the trends in relocation to quieter but more scenic parts of the country since the pandemic began.
The fear of crowded places, close living and busy streets made many people engage in a re-think on their circumstances, and gave them more focus for their long-term ambitions.
Those who found living in relative isolation and away from the busy office environment a surprisingly pleasant experience thought about making a permanent change now, rather than waiting until later, or retirement.
The introduction of remote working and, by extension, hybrid working, has opened up so many more opportunities for towns like Clonakilty, Dunmanway, Castletownbere, Skibbereen and Bantry.
Towns that, in the past, were seen as holiday destinations, have now assumed the mantle of lifestyle locations, that offer year-round options for working people.
No longer does one have to wait until the pension is collected before moving to the dream location.
And with rural areas all around Ireland now able to compete with larger cities on almost every level – great schools, restaurants, leisure facilities and shops – then there is really no longer an argument for waiting for the ‘big move’. Even road infrastructure has improved.
Where broadband connections may be an issue, digital hubs have popped up to provide an option. Many home workers love the flexibility of such venues, which can double up as a more congenial alternative to the city office – you still have colleagues, only you can walk away or move to a different hub if they begin to grate!
And so counties around our coasts – which offer holiday-style locations but year-round facilities – have seen property prices shoot up in the past 12 months.
This is good news on a number of fronts – an influx of new people will mean local economies will benefit, including schools, supermarkets, and other businesses. And it will help smaller communities to strengthen their numbers and secure their futures for longer.
However, it is bad news for local people trying to get a first foot on the property ladder.
Even before the pandemic, the price of homes in West Cork was out of the reach of most people.
And that was even with many homes being purchased by at least two people, with their respective double incomes, but there was little hope of single people, on rural Irish wages, being able to secure a mortgage.
Add into the mix now the fact that those homes have jumped, in some areas, by several percentage points in price, and it’s easy to see how even a local couple with two good incomes, will struggle to get their first home.
There is no doubt that Ireland is moving closer to the European model, with long-term renting becoming the only option for many citizens.
The difference being that Irish legislation has not yet caught up with that trend, and renting is a precarious existence for so many people, who can find themselves being asked to leave a premises with just a few months’ notice, if they are lucky.
A rising property market will tempt even more landlords to sell up, thus reducing the rental stock further.
So while our local economies will see a boost from an influx of new residents to our towns and villages, we must not forget those whose ‘boats’ will not be lifted by this tide.
And we must work hard to encourage our legislators to ensure that our property laws ‘rise’ to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing landscape.