Million-euro mansions of the stars struggling to find buyers

Last week actor Saoirse Ronan went sale agreed on her Co Wicklow five-bed for a sum more than €100,000 over the asking price. The sale of Pine Lodge in Greystones for a reported €1.6m bucks the sales trend for Irish trophy homes.

In today’s property market, not even the added sparkle of a celebrity vendor is enough to guarantee that a house will reach its asking price.

Take the Cork property of dancer Michael Flatley, which went to market in 2015 with a price tag of €20m.

The Palladian mansion on the Blackwater River comes with 150 acres of land, 12 bedroom suites, a 20-seat cinema, an African safari-themed billiard room, swimming pool, whiskey room and not one, but two wine cellars.

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Still, it has languished unsold. In 2017, the price was slashed to a more realistic €12.5m but the property, as yet, has not gone sale agreed.

“The house is too expensive,” said one estate agent who has dealt with a number of celebrity home sales.

“Simple as that. It doesn’t matter if you’re God, if the price is wrong, it’s wrong.”

Musician Sharon Corr also found that a sprinkling of star dust was no guarantee of a meteoric sale.

Her mews house off Ailesbury Road in the embassy district of Dublin 4 first went up for sale in 2008 asking €3.25m, but failed to sell.

In 2016, the three-bed property was back on the market at a fraction of its original price – at just €900,000.

It is recorded in the Property Price Register as having achieved a sale price of €815,000.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has been another casualty of the slowdown at the top end of the market.

His parental home at Knockmore estate in Enniskerry finally went sale agreed in September this year. But the five-bedroom Victorian pile went for just €1.31m, €2.5m less than its original asking price in 2017, and it was on the market for over two years.

“The longer you can afford to wait at the top end of the market,” says economist and author of the reports Ronan Lyons, “the higher the price you can get. But if you need to sell or are on a certain timeline then the celebrity factor is going to have less of an effect at the moment.”

Other celebrity vendors with trophy homes on the market must also be feeling the chill.

Among them is solicitor-to-the-stars Gerald Kean, who put his Wicklow pad on the market in April 2017. The price then for the 11-bedroom 1,580sqm home was a heady €3.75m – it includes a ballroom, a 54-seat cinema and a cigar room. However, today Drayton Manor is still seeking a buyer and the asking price has dropped 40pc to €2.25m.

“The market was going up, up, up and was not sustainable,” says Celia Lamb of Wilsons Auctions, who previously headed up Country Homes for estate agents Ganly Walters.

“Agents need to manage their vendors’ expectations and it is not difficult to do that. You say, look what this sold for and compare their property to other properties.”

She recently handled the sale of singer Tori Amos’s Georgian home on 16.55 acres in Kinsale, on the market for the comparative bargain price of €1.45m. According to the Property Price Register, which lists the price for house and one acre only, Ballywilliam House sold in September for just under €1.2m.

In today’s market, Lamb believes that the celebrity seller still has an advantage over other buyers. “It gives you a wider audience. More people will see the property if there’s a name behind it.”

Brian Dempsey, a partner at selling agents DNG, has handled a number of celebrity sales over the years and has a Chicago billionaire on his books looking for “a stately home”. He also believed the X factor pushes up the price. “Any time I’ve sold something with a bit of star factor, I have reckoned we achieved more because of it, and perhaps had an easier sale because of it. And that might apply to anyone from a Fair City actor up to your U2s.”

Many of these big houses are selling to international buyers, says Pat Davitt, head of IPAV (Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers), and where they sell to Irish buyers, it is because they know the market and they know when they are getting value for money.

“These trophy properties, they all find their level,” he says. “People think their home is their castle and that it is worth a huge amount of money but at the end of the day the market finds the worth of it.”

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