Covid and Brexit Prompt Ireland’s Relocation Wave

Since the dual dramas of Brexit and Covid-19, a wave of relocating professionals is washing up in Ireland’s capital Dublin, many of them returning to their homeland.

Opportunities in financial services, technology and business consultancy are multiplying in Ireland, creating a perfect storm of heightened economic activity and competition for properties.

“We’re seeing a big increase in people moving back to Ireland,” says Barbara Carty at full-service property agency InHous. “Some are coming because of Brexit: they may have been in the UK for 20 years, but this was the trigger for them. The pandemic has persuaded others to relocate. Schools are more affordable and, from a property point of view, they can get a lot more bang for their buck.”

One returning professional seeking a rental property in Dublin called InHous in January 2021. Within a month, Barbara had sourced a centrally-located house with everything the client required. “Barbara sent us videos of her walking through the property,” says the client. “It saved us thousands of pounds in flights, quarantining and potential disappointment. I have friends who’ve flown over to Dublin, only to view a property that was unsuitable.”

This client was driven by lifestyle requirements: she and her partner wanted to be close to the sea, to friends and to her childhood city. She also cited the ‘push and pull of Brexit’ as a factor, fearing that remaining in the UK would limit her options. Greater career opportunities in Dublin and the pandemic work from home regime were further factors.     

“Particularly in times of Covid, having someone like Barbara who has great relations with property agents, knows the city and has the latest market intelligence is hugely valuable,” she says. “It gives you better negotiating power because the agents can expect repeat business. And it takes the emotion out of things.”

Working in senior management at finance and technology companies, she and her partner value the pan-European access of Irish citizenship compared with the newly-restricted UK environment. After a period of renting, they plan to buy a property in Dublin. “We’ll use InHous for that transaction too,” she adds.

Some professionals relocating from the UK to Ireland have kept their original jobs: working from home means you can operate as easily in Dublin as in London. The differences are that private schooling for your children typically costs a third of the London equivalent, you can get a large property with extensive grounds in Dublin for the same price as a modest apartment in central London, and you have the advantages of EU membership.

The new Nord Anglia international school at Sandyford, to the south of Dublin central, gives relocating families further options, teaching the international baccalaureate - while charging top international prices. Indeed the whole society is more cosmopolitan, liberal and inclusive than it was a generation ago. Dublin has its own Latin Quarter, with Spanish and Italian restaurants, bars and boutiques. The election of gay Irish-Indian politician Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach (equivalent to Prime Minister) in 2017 tells you a great deal about how Ireland has moved with the times.

The challenge is that so many people are now relocating that real estate supply is under pressure, says Barbara Carty. “If you’re looking for somewhere in the €1 million bracket, it’s not so difficult, but once you’re looking at €3-4 million, with a wish-list of features and facilities, it can take people a couple of years.”

The stresses of Brexit and Covid have further reduced supply, as elderly sellers, for example, have closed their doors and taken properties off the market. Uncertainty over future market conditions has undermined confidence along with the lack of mobility caused by the pandemic.

“Once the lid is opened in April or May, things are going to get really busy,” predicts Barbara Carty at InHous. “This is when a search agency like ours can be especially helpful.” She argues that quoted prices from some Dublin agents are unrealistic: “They might say €2.8 million when we know that fair value is €2.2 million. We can do comparisons with other properties on the market and use our knowledge of the area to advise clients. We can tell them how much they’ll need to spend on the property in renovation costs, for example.”

InHous works with a series of trusted partners, advising on tax, mortgages, financing and removals to offer entire relocation packages, something that the main Dublin agents rarely provide. Its property search capability is particularly valuable and unique.

The Irish economy, while suffering to an extent from Covid-19 like most of the world, has maintained a strong undercurrent of activity: technology companies, consultancies such as EY and Amazon and financial services operations such as wealth management companies are thriving. There’s an increasing flow of business out of the UK and into Ireland, as Brexit continues to play out and companies take advantage of Ireland’s low-tax environment.

According to European Commission figures, Ireland was the only EU state to register economic growth in 2020, with an increase of 3 per cent in GDP. Latest forecasts from the Irish Central Bank show the country posting a likely 3.8 per cent GDP growth in 2021, followed by 4.6 per cent next year.

The Irish Times reported that the country’s savers put €11 billion into their bank accounts in 2020, money that will doubtless flow into property acquisitions later in 2021, serving to boost the market yet further.

The upshot is that as more professionals seek to relocate to Ireland, adding to the heat of an already active market, the more the services of agents like InHous will be needed. “We’re getting to the point where people are overwhelmed,” says Barbara Carty. “They can’t find a school, they can’t find a property. We’re able to source a four-bedroom house in the centre of Dublin through off-market contacts. That can save someone a whole lot of time and stress.”