During lockdown, Dee Gibney and her team at Dee Gibney Properties in Kilkenny were looking at an uncomfortable three months of zero business between March, April, and May 2020. Once they could get back to their properties, the firm had to think on its feet to turn their face-to-face real estate practices to a digital format in order to circumnavigate the pandemic.
Instead of hiring outside developers to make 360-degree video presentations, Dee and her team, armed with their cell phones, took interested buyers through their properties live, showing them “warts and all” in a personalized, tailored approach to the distance driven between themselves and prospective buyers due to the pandemic restrictions. What could have been a terrible time, ended up being one of the busiest the firm has had since its opening, in fact, the business doubled from its pre-COVID numbers to be the best quarter the firm has had in its 15 years in business. “It’s been insane,” Gibney told the IPBN, “It’s the busiest we have ever been.”
Investors are backing off due to the lack of the deals previously available before the boom, leaving unprecedented room for buyers to corner the market. What may not shock you is that it's the same types of properties that are getting all the attention: bigger spaces with more access to the outdoors. According to Gibney, "First-time buyers, rather than looking for two-bedroom properties, are looking for at least three because they need at least two office spaces. Also, gardens…people are coming from apartment living. They’ve spent the last four months cooped up and now they say, ‘I need a garden!’ So that’s a big thing. But mainly it’s just space for everybody. Even those buying the bigger properties…are looking for them outside the city center but a few miles outside where you get more space and in general, more for your money.” Gibney added, “There’s an incredible amount of business now in Kilkenny…it’s only an hour and a half drive from Dublin down the motorway, and that’s what’s making it so attractive now. People are driving to and from work when they have to, so it’s accessible…and such a nice place to live.”
There are a lot of people overseas coming to look at property in Kilkenny— from Brazil, South Africa, and even Dubai, among others, and their priorities in finding a home are very different. According to Gibney, they are renting first to get a better idea of where they want to live. “If they are cash buyers, they can buy instantly but if they are mortgage buyers, they have to wait for two years.” They are looking mainly for apartments with a decent terrace or balcony in the city center. “They won’t even consider being out in the country because when things do get back to normal, it’s where it all happens.”
When asked if the virtual showings would continue in the medium term, Gibney responded with an adamant “No. Irish people are definitely not into virtual viewings at all. It’s the touchy-feely type of things they enjoy, like opening doors and having a look…so I don’t think virtual viewings will continue for much longer, but we have had several clients buy a property that way.”
Even Kilkenny locals are jumping into the market, mainly looking for bigger spaces. “People have been at home, looking up all these different places online wondering what their options are, so it’s really inspired them to make the move. It’s really good for the economy that this is happening. And now we’re getting to see people again and talk face to face, and it’s so much better.”
There's nothing like a pandemic to get people to really take stock in their priorities.
Personally speaking, Gibney’s priorities have shifted slightly during the pandemic. She told the IPBN, “Getting to see the family is really important since we are all scattered about…My daughter is 18 and she just left school for the last time last week,” Gibney said, fanning her eyes, “and she’s moving on to university now. I think as a result of that, I’m beginning to prioritize myself more. I’ve spent 17 years growing a business…and now I think I can finally slow down a bit, so that’s good.”
Times are changing in the building sector, and those working on both sustainable (and other) projects need to be aware of what this will mean for the sector as a whole. Luckily, the IPBN is taking an in-depth look at these and other standards that are fast approaching in our second panel discussion.
The Ireland Portugal Business Network (IPBN) is delighted to host an important conversation among experts in the hospitality sector for our second panel discussion to better understand the current state of the sector and what evolution is ahead for the future.