My decade: Owen Reilly, estate agent interview

The Irish Times, November 30th 2009

At the start of the decade I worked in Gunne’s Lucan branch as a junior negotiator in residential sales, on a basic salary of £8,000. The office had no internet or e-mail. We relied on signs, newspaper ads, walk-ins and good old-fashioned callbacks to sell. It was a fantastic place to learn the trade. I loved the job and I still do.

The market was going only one way – up – and though experienced chaps cautioned me that the property game hadn’t always been like this, it sounded to me like ancient history.

After a couple of years – which included a temporary slowdown in the market in late 2001 – I was promoted to negotiator and given a patch encompassing Lucan, Leixlip, Celbridge and Dublin 15. Many of my clients worked in Intel or Hewlett-Packard. The volume of sales was huge. In one day I negotiated terms on six houses. I spent only three years in the Lucan office, but in that time I sold one house three times, as clients traded up.

Next came a couple of years in Ballsbridge and Rathgar, where auction sales were popular. My first was a former nursing home. I put what I thought was an accurate guide price on it and we advertised for three weeks. The hammer came down 40 per cent above the guide.

In 2005 I had my first experience of a big new-homes launch in Kilmainham. We planned to sell over 200 apartments from the plans, using little more than colour-coded charts and a smart-looking model. At 5am on launch day I got a text saying people had been queuing overnight. When we opened the doors, buyers burst through. That day we sold over 100 apartments. Some people bought two or three.

It seems a lifetime ago. I thought the market would rise forever. I remember trying to convince a buyer in Ballsbridge that Dublin would soon compete with Manhattan, Mayfair and Paris in terms of property prices. I believed it.

I noticed a slowdown in autumn 2006, when we launched the second phase of a development and sold only 10 homes. That summer, a minister had spoken about the possibility of stamp duty being abolished in the budget. This created uncertainty and, as interest rates rose, the market stalled. The first advertised price drops started in early 2007, and it has been a race to the floor ever since.

At the end of 2007 I set up my own firm in the Docklands, where I was and am living. In January 2008, I took delivery of a window display, but had no properties to put in it. That was a very difficult year. This one has been better, because sellers are more realistic. Prices have now corrected between 35 per cent and 65 per cent since the peak of 2006. It is too early to say if this is the beginning of the recovery, but it is definitely the beginning of the end of the slowdown.

Please see the article on line here.

The Irish Times, November 30th 2009