The option to work remotely has meant that people are leaving cities across Ireland in their droves, and many are heading to Longford, the fastest growing county in terms of population.
Property prices rose by an average of 7.5 per cent across Longford last year, with cottages and older buildings in need of renovation rising as much as 10 to 15 per cent. “There was a surge in demand for cottages to take advantage of the vacant property grants and this led to an increase in supply of these properties coming onto the market,” says Jonathan Quinn of Sherry FitzGerald Quinn. “Poor prices and low demand previously had meant owners had not been motivated to sell. But this has changed.”
He points to an example of a stone-built former garda station in the heritage village of Ardagh, which attracted interest nationwide and sold by online auction for €196,000 — 57 per cent over the asking price. “The buyers hope to refurbish it and make it a home,” he says.
The picturesque Lough Gowna
The vast majority of purchasers were either couples moving from cities or first-time buyers.
There was also a marked exit of landlords from the rental market in Longford. “Many of them who were trapped in negative equity were looking at the increased prices as an opportunity to offload their property investments,” Quinn says. “Despite the strong rental prices, a lot of investors were frustrated by pedantic and constantly changing regulations, and in particular registration issues with the Residential Tenancies Board in the past two years.”
The lack of available rental properties meant that rental prices increased drastically, and, in many cases, it was cheaper for first-time buyers to buy rather than continue to rent and this fed into the number of people getting a foothold on the property ladder for the first time.
Quinn predicts a further increase of 6 per cent in Longford in the coming year, but stresses that there’s still value for money to be had. “Co Longford still has very cheap property values,” he says. “Lowering inflation and potentially lower interest rates may give further confidence to buyers here in 2024.”
‘People here are super-supportive’
Louise Brennan, local business owner
Louise Brennan is a proud Longford woman who loves what her county offers.
“I am north Longford born and bred and I’m a real champion of the place. It’s a brilliant, community-orientated county with a great mix of town and countryside. The people are so friendly and welcoming and look after their own. There’s also a brilliant work-life balance, with plenty of remote-working hubs opening since the pandemic.”
Brennan owns Fabiani, a fashion store that sells premium designer labels. She opened at the height of the economic crash in 2010 but says it has succeeded mainly because of the support of the Longford people.
“It felt right to start the business in my home town. It was a big leap of faith, but it has paid off. Longfordians are super supportive, and our customers from day one are still with us today. As Longford is centrally located, we have customers who travel to shop with us. Since the pandemic, our customer base has grown as many young professionals have relocated to Longford to reap the many benefits of country life.”
Prospective residents are attracted by Longford’s equal distance from Galway and Dublin and its good rail connections.
Longford was always known as a shopping town, but it is now growing its reputation as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The Royal Canal Greenway, which starts in Maynooth, Co Kildare, and ends in Longford, opened in 2021. Brennan also says that Center Parcs has brought a new dimension to Longford and profoundly affected the local economy.