Selling agents and home hunters – don’t panic: that was the sentiment expressed by Sherry FitzGerald’s Chief Economist during a property market seminar held in Waterford last Wednesday.

Marian Finnegan told local auctioneers that better days lie ahead for the property market, despite the doom and gloom that’s dominated business coverage in recent months.

“I fear that there is definitely something in the Irish psyche that likes bad news,” she said. “Perhaps it’s the comfort of familiarity. When times are good, we predict it will all fall apart very soon; when times are bad we believe it will never end.”

Ms Finnegan admitted: “There is no doubt that we are facing challenging times both in terms of the economy and the property market. But it is not, however, as some may suggest, the beginning of the end.”

In his seminar introduction, John Rohan of Sherry Fitzgerald John Rohan acknowledged that “the market is tough”. He added: “But I feel confident that things will change sooner rather than later.”

As for Eddie Hobbs’ declaration earlier that morning that the property market was a “basket case”, Ms Finnegan said that the ‘Show Me The Money’ presenter’s comments were best taken with ounces of salt.

But observations made by Moore McDowell in his property analysis, which featured in our ‘Home Trends’ supplement last week, carried greater clout with the Sherry Fitzgerald expert.

In that assessment, Mr McDowell wrote that “the good life does not depend on owning the roof over your head: ask any Parisian, Milanese or Manhattanite. They get along fine while for the most part renting.”

Ms Finnegan told The Munster Express that there were certainly merits in the UCD economist’s argument. “It’s an interesting debate, there’s no doubting that,” she said. “But I think it’s one we’ll get around to having in 10 years’ time, maybe.”

She continued: “Now if we had a rental system similar to what exists in Manhattan, for example, then perhaps we would look on rental a little differently.

“But since Irish tenants don’t have the same guarantees that they have in New York or on the continent, talking about a cultural mindshift is something that can’t happen overnight…

“Whereas if you buy a house, which is what most of us still tend to do, even if the bank owns a good deal of it for many years, at least you have the security of knowing that you’ll be under the same roof 12 months from now. You simply don’t have that security if you’re renting.”

Referring to the latest Sherry FitzGerald price barometer, Ms Finnegan cited the enhanced affordability in the starter home market and the increased number of houses now more affordable to purchase than to rent.

“The combination of improved affordability in the housing market and the potential for further interest rate reductions suggest that this market is much closer to realignment than many commentators recognise,” she felt.

“The combination of the competitive pricing of property
and reduced levels of stamp duty means that an astute purchaser trading up today is saving
multiples of any reduction in value of their original property – a compelling reason to consider what may be the biggest investment decision of one’s left and more importantly, a home for one’s family.”

Marian Finnegan told the large gathering assembled at Sherry Fitzgerald John Rohan’s Cork Road office that there is, contrary to a great deal of public opinion, light at the end of the tunnel.

“Rest assured, when this is clearly visible to the masses, the choice and perhaps the value available today will be quickly eroded,” she said.