Dubliners turn Newry into a commuter town

Posted on November 9, 2006 · Posted in Irish Times

Northern Ireland Market House prices in the Border town of Newry have risen by 371 per cent since 1996 – but are still lower than in the Republic, says Paul Gosling

Newry has become a hot spot for homes. According to the just published house-price survey from mortgage lender Halifax, house prices in Newry have risen by 371 per cent since early 1996.

Local economic factors have helped spark the rise – with unemployment falling from almost 30 per cent in the 1980s to about 2.5 per cent today.

But Newry’s growing attraction as a cross-border commuter location for Dublin is a key factor in driving up prices.

“There is a big demand from the south,” says John Lennon, proprietor of Town & Country Properties NI.

“About 25 to 30 per cent of purchasers are from across the border, because prices are still lower than in the Republic. People are commuting from Newry to Dublin.”

Lennon says that one property he is selling – in Rathfriland in Newry – for £310,000 (€462,000), would be at least €1.5 million in Dublin.

“It’s a beautiful house, sitting in over half an acre of land.”

John Paul O’Hanlon, director of Newry’s Alpha Properties, agrees that southern buyers are helping to reshape the local market.

He says that while smaller homes – also subject to very sharp price hikes – are being bought by local buyers, the bigger properties are going to southern owners.

“With the larger properties, 50 per cent are from the south,” says O’Hanlon.

“People are selling two-bed apartments in Dublin and paying £400,000 (€596,000) here to buy an ultra-modern five-bed detached house with a phenomenal view.”

Improved roads are playing an important part in opening up Newry to southern buyers – as well as its location just eight miles from Dundalk.

The Dundalk by-pass is nearing completion and the Newry by-pass is scheduled to open in 2009. At present, it takes about an hour to reach Dublin Airport and the new roads should cut this by 10 minutes.

The fact that it is equally accessible to Belfast provides other opportunities.

“You even have young professionals where maybe he works in Belfast and she works in Dublin,” says Maurice Fagan, manager of the Newry branch of Shooter Property Services.

Fagan says that at one development of apartments – the San Jose scheme on Newry’s Dublin Road – about a third of buyers are from the south of the border.

But investors from both north and south have also been buying heavily in and around Newry.

“A lot of investors from the south have been attracted to Newry,” says Fagan.

“There is a big, big demand for rented accommodation from migrant workers. That has led to enormous increases in buy-to-let. And that has hit the prices of town houses, resales and smaller semis.”

Inevitably, the pressures have led to massive and continuing rises in house prices.

“Some prices have been rising by £15,000 or £20,000 (€22,000 to €30,000) in a week,” says Alpha’s O’Hanlon.

First-time buyers that would have had to pay £55,000 (€82,000) seven years ago, are now frequently told there is nothing available under £200,000 (€300,000).

“In March we had a house builder who was looking for £240,000 (€358,000) and he got £389,000 (€580,000),” says O’Hanlon.

“Then he sold a second property in July, where he was looking for £250,000 (€373,000) and got £463,000 (€690,000).”

Lennon at Town & Country believes there may now be “some levelling out”.

Fagan at Shooter agrees. “There is no indication of prices falling back,” he says.

“The market has fallen a bit quieter in the last few days, but that is probably seasonal. But we may not get the same percentage increases.”

There is no guarantee, though, that property prices will not continue to rise sharply.

“The economy in Newry is buzzing,” says Lennon.

“That is a good thing and a bad thing – it is harder for young ones to get a property. It’s supply and demand – the supply is low and the demand is high.”

O’Hanlon explains: “There are few development sites. A lot of people with greenfield sites hoped they would be zoned but in the new area plan, Newry got nothing.”

David Hanna, president of the Newry Chamber of Trade and Commerce and partner in Hanna Hillen estate agency, points out that that the large number of young adults in the area moving into the first-time buyers’ market has created added price pressure, leading to what he describes as the “exponential increases over the last five to seven years”.

Hanna, though, adds that there are other factors that appeal to buyers from the north and the south.

The quality of life is good and Newry borders on the Mourne Mountains, Ring of Gullion and Carlingford Lough: areas of outstanding natural beauty. What is more, he says, “the people are really nice”.

On the market

4 Carney Hall, Upper Damolly Road, Newry.

Two-bedroom house built in 2002. Town house, one and a quarter miles from centre of Newry. Lounge/diner. No garden. Good quality decoration. Two secured outside parking spaces.

Price: £179,000 (€267,000).

Agent: Hanna Hillen

Tel: 048 30258520)

20 Castleowen, Ashgrove Road, Newry.

Four-bedroom house built in 1999. Detached house on edge of Newry. Entrance hall, two living rooms, kitchen/diner, utility room, small front and back gardens. Driveway.

Price: £330,000 (€492,000).

Agent: Alpha Properties.

Web: www.alphapropertiesni.com