Housing market turmoil as mica crisis grows

MICA is casting a “huge shadow” over Donegal’s housing market according to local estate agents.
Sellers say they are seeing a number of new trends developing as a result of the volume of homes with crumbling blocks. These range from a surge in demand for older houses, ones built prior to the mica era, to people being prepared to pay huge amounts for properties confirmed as being free of the malign element.
“House prices have increased over the past while but Donegal is seriously suffering because of the whole mica issue,” said Joe Reynolds of Letterkenny firm Property Partners.
“It is having a hugely detrimental impact on the market because you have houses in Letterkenny, Milford, Ramelton being diagnosed with mica, it’s not just Inishowen. And when you have a property diagnosed it makes it a very difficult proposition to sell.”
Mr Reynolds said it was hard to say whether people from outside the county are being put off generally by the dangers of buying a house with mica. He said buyers were still coming but are often interested in older properties, dating from the 1990s and earlier.
A greater deterrent is the lack of houses.
“The supply isn’t there. The ideal scenario would be that more new properties come to the market because with the new regulations you wouldn’t expect them to have mica.
“But there are very few developers in Letterkenny building, possibly because we don’t have enough land zoned for private residential homes.”
Gerry Grennan of Premier Properties said mica was the first question asked when someone requested a viewing. His advice to buyers was to have a structural survey carried out before parting with any money.
According to the Mica Action Groiup spokesperosn Michael Doherty those buying or selling a home can carry out a Suite A test which will investigate the strength of the blocks but it will cost between €1,800 and €2,000, and if results are unclassified, further testing may be required.
Mr Grennan added: “Pretty much the first question a buyer will ask is if the property is sound or when was it built.
“At a minimum we are advising all buyers to have at least a structural survey done so that they have something to fall back on. The surveyors may then recommend further testing or they will be happy to recommend the property.
“Without a doubt, the whole mica issue is casting a huge shadow on the whole market.”
Sinead McCahey of DNG Boyce Gallagher in Letterkenny said the mica situation was making it difficult for first time buyers to get on the property ladder because “prices are rocketing” on homes found to be mica-free.
“At the minute there is a lack of houses on the market and if anything does become available and it doesn’t have mica, the prices are going up very quick.
“We recently sold a three bed semi-detached house in an estate for €185,000. But it needs around €20,000 more spent on it.
“There is a real lack of new stock and there are no new developments planned. So if any new or older houses do come on the market, there is massive interest because people are so wary about avoiding houses which could have mica.”
A further issue impacting the property market is the increasing price of building materials. According to industry experts contractors are holding off on starting new builds because of rising supply costs.
“There really isn’t much available for first time buyers,” said Ms McCahey.
Donegal has benefited though from the shift to home working. Where previously people worked in cities, many are now realising that it is possible to operate remotely while also enjoying a different pace of life.
“We sold quite a few properties from people moving from cities during the pandemic. There were also buyers who moved back from England and further abroad,” Ms McCahey revealed.

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