What kind of Limerick will emerge from Covid and what will the future city look like?
These are the questions facing the region as people emerge from forced hibernation.
The ambition is for a “vibrant city” that will see people living, working, socialising, and growing up in it.
The pandemic will fast-forward some of that change and leave its own impression. How we work, rest and play will never be the same again but as well as presenting further challenges, post-pandemic life will also provide opportunities.
Limerick Mayor Daniel Butler believes the future is likely to be a “blended one”.
“You have a mixture of people coming into the office, and those who will work from home. It is obviously industry-specific as well.
“All the indicators that we have been shown is that there will continue to be a demand for office space.
“There’s not much availability in terms of office space in Limerick at the moment.
“There’s an urgency to see this office space coming in.”
The topic was broached again this month at a special meeting of the Metropolitan District of Limerick, in which the Opera Site was discussed.
Cllr Olivia O’Sullivan noted that we are seeing “a hugely different city emerging post-Covid”.
“And I guess we’re pinning everything to the mast with this,” Ms O’Sullivan said, stressing the importance of getting the project right.
Cllr Elena Secas brought up the question of how much office space would be needed after Covid-19.
“Will we still need the amount of office space that’s proposed as part of these developments in the future, post-Covid? Is there any chance that will change?”
Vincent Murray, director of Economic Development & Enterprise with Limerick City and County Council, said: “The evidence we’re getting in the last couple of months is there is a huge demand for office space in the city centre.
“There’s probably very little office space worth talking about left in the city centre at the moment. It has been occupied,” he added.
Mr Murray gave a number of examples of large companies that are actively looking for office space and added that a lot of firms already present in Limerick are looking to upscale.
Cllr Joe Leddin said those “pontificating the death of the office are certainly premature”.
The demand for residential property is high in Limerick.
Lisa Kearney of Rooney’s auctioneers says in recent months the tide of returning Shannonsiders has actually been growing rather than slackening off.
“A factor in this appears to be the affordability of housing outside Dublin combined with the increased willingness of employers and employees to engage in remote working.”
She says demand for Limerick city property has intensified since the last lockdown and is continuing to do so, albeit at a less frantic level.
Ailbhe O’Malley, of Sherry FitzGerald Limerick, estimates incoming buyers now make up 50% of those purchasing at the upper end of the market.
These types of buyers were among those who viewed Springdale, a detached redbrick Edwardian house on Ennis Road that sold for €1.2m in August and was the most expensive sale in the city so far this year. Although it attracted good interest from relocating buyers, Ms O’Malley says it went to a local buyer in the end.
While Springdale was the highest priced period property in the city, Cloontagh on Clancy Strand — a four-bed detached house built in 2001 — seems to be the most expensive modern one. Also on the market with Sherry Fitzgerald Limerick, it has a guide of €985,000.
“Interested buyers include one local and one returning local and we have an offer close to the asking price,” says Ms O’Malley.
Declan Barry, of O’Connor Murphy auctioneers, has also been seeing locals moving back from Dublin and returning from abroad and reckons that they make up around a third of buyers at the higher end of the market.
“I have seen more buyers from Dublin in the last couple of months than previously,” he says, noting that some have come to work in the city and others to work remotely.
“This year we had the lowest stock level since 2006, which paired with an influx of buyers resulted in most second-hand homes selling for substantially above their asking prices.
“Overall we have seen almost a 10% increase in three and four-bed semis, with two-bed units achieving growth of 8%.”
Properties listed by Mr Barry recently include Myrtleville — a five-bed semi-detached period property on South Circular Road — which he says has attracted good interest from relocating buyers and is set to go sale agreed significantly in excess of its €775,000 guide.
Second-hand properties suitable for first-time buyers are according to Mr Barry, now in very short supply.
“A typical three-bed property that would have cost €180,000 to €190,000 last year, is now selling for €200,000 to €220,000.”
Ailbhe O’Malley, of Sherry FitzGerald, reports that three-bed semis have become particularly scarce.
“Last year, you have paid €220,000 to €230,000 for a three-bed semi, now it is difficult to find one for under €250,000.’’
Tom Crosse, of GVM auctioneers, says that in some cases prices in the city have gone up between 15 and 20% this year.
“In the new homes market, low supply coupled with extremely high building costs have pushed prices up significantly. Prices are up 15%, but so are building costs,’’ he says.
The high level of demand for new homes has meant that new releases at the lower end of the market, anywhere close to Limerick city, tended to sell out very quickly.
Sherry FitzGerald Limerick says all available new homes in The Edge in Castletroy and at Mungret Gate sold quickly.
“The 14 properties we launched at Mungret Gate, priced from €190,000 to €320,000 were gone in a week,” says auctioneer Sinead Mullen adding that all 46 houses at the Edge priced from €300,000 to €480,000 were gone by the summer.
Sherry FitzGerald is, however, planning new releases in both developments in early 2020.
In a 53-house development at Ros Mor on Ballyneety Road, Rooney auctioneers have sold all available 14 properties but have plans for a further launch.
GVM auctioneers sold all 25 houses in Newtown Manor in Castletroy (three and four-bed semis priced from €355,000 to €420,000) but are planning a new release at Newtown Meadows in mid-2022.
Seven new four-bed detached houses priced at €625,000 are still available at Revington Gardens on South Circular Road.
On the market with joint agents Rooney’s and Hickey O’ Donoghue, they seem to be the only new homes currently available in the city.