Athlone housing market “over the worst”, says local auctioneer

An Athlone auctioneer has queried the findings of a national report claiming which claimed Westmeath house prices have dropped by 26 per cent since their peak in 2007, saying the local property market is “over the worst of it”.

Joe Naughton of ERA Oates Auctioneers was responding to the latest figures from leading property website MyHome.ie, which claimed that the price of a three-bed semi-detached house in Westmeath had fallen by 26 per cent since house prices peaked.

“I would question the figures. It is unfair to put Athlone in a bracket with the rest of the county. We have seen a big jump in sales in the last quarter. First-time buyers are starting to see it as a good time to buy,” said Mr Naughton.

“While the figure may be true for some parts of Westmeath, Athlone is a population and employment centre, and the figure is not realistic for Athlone or within a 10 kilometre radius. The drop is more likely to be about 20 per cent from the heights of house prices in 2007.”

Mr Oates said the fact that people can now buy a house for less than construction cost means house ownership is beginning to look like a more realistic goal for more and more people.

“In the last month things have really taken a turn upwards, and Athlone has come out much quicker than other places. Lending institutions are now looking to give money to first-time buyers.

“In addition, if a first-time buyer can fix rates for as long as possible, it is cheaper now to buy than to rent. People are paying €800 or €900 a month for rent, but could pay a mortgage for less than that. We could be over the worst of it.

“There is money out there and people want to buy. We dropped six apartments in Bastion Quay by 50 per cent, and two sales were agreed in the first week,” he added.

According to the report from MyHome.ie, the average price of a three-bed semi-detached house in the county is now €195,699, down almost 26 per cent from peak prices and a drop of 6.3 per cent in the most recent quarter, one of the largest drops in the country.

Mr Naughton estimates that the average asking price for a three-bed semi in Athlone is in the region of €170,000 to €200,000, while a four-bed would cost the buyer in the region of €180,000 to €225,000.

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