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Americans lead international buyers in pursuit of high-end Irish homes

One estate agent says that since September 2022, half of the buyers of high value properties were international

Though the Irish have been travelling to the United States since the 1500s, it wasn’t until the Great Famine that we went and settled there in large numbers. It is estimated that nine to 10 million have emigrated since 1820, with about 70 million people claiming Irish ancestry worldwide. In the US alone, 35 million people claim Irish ancestry, according to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. In its 2000 census, self-identified Irish-Americans made up 12 per cent of the US population, coming second after German-Americans at 17 per cent.

“The standout performer for 2022 was the international buyer, predominately the US buyer,” says Roseanne De Vere Hunt, director of Sherry FitzGerald Country Homes, Farms and Estates, “and visits to our website from US visitors rose by 42 per cent year on year”. Spurred by the strength of the dollar, expats are now seeing it as the perfect time to buy, according to De Vere Hunt. But US buyers with no connection to Ireland, besides a favourable exchange rate, are attracted by the fact that English is the most commonly spoken language, that there are no additional taxes for overseas buyers and there are comparatively low stamp duty rates, along with our peaceful and tranquil countryside.

Mount Brandon, a Georgian residence on 7.2 hectares (18 acres) in Graiguenamanagh, Co Kilkenny, recently sold through Sherry FitzGerald to a US buyer for more than its €1.6 million asking price. “Since September 1st, 2022, 50 per cent of buyers were international,” says De Vere Hunt.

“Inquiry levels from US buyers have increased substantially since the beginning of lockdowns in 2020,″ says Ray Palmer-Smith, director of new homes at Knight Frank. The agency has so far agreed five sales with US-based buyers since the beginning of 2023, he says, some of whom are expats, with asking prices between €1 million and €3.75 million: including at the Pinnacle in Mount Merrion, Árd Mhuire Park in Dalkey and the Collection in Ballsbridge.


The agency recently sold Clonleason House outside Navan to a US buyer for “significantly more than the €1.5 million asking [price],” according to Guy Craigie, director of residential property at Knight Frank.

Cork, particularly Kinsale, has been a popular spot for overseas buyers, especially with the news that Nike heir, Travis Knight paid €4.5 million for a 465sq m (5,000sq ft) five-bedroom waterfront house in Scilly. Last year Raffeen, the waterside home owned by Colm “Sully” O’Sullivan achieved €4.75 million, sold to an “international figure”, according to Colliers International, who handled the sale along with Engel and Volkers.

The buyer of Strand House in Clonakilty (€1.175 million) through Charles McCarthy Estate Agents was American and so was the underbidder, he says. “One was looking to move here full time and the other to spend most of the year here. Interestingly, neither had a particularly strong Irish-American connection,[they] just have holidayed here a lot and loved the country. The main reasons were [that it’s] a safe country and it offers a good quality of life and a temperate climate,” says Maeve McCarthy of the agency.

Lisney Sotheby’s International Realty sold Dripsey Castle in Cork, where the underbidder was moving back from the US. Besides a strong family connection to Ireland “it was the atmosphere and scenery” that influenced the decision. “We also agreed a large property this week in Dublin 4 [in the region of €4 million] and the direct underbidder was moving back from New York, looking to enjoy retirement,” according to Stephen Day of Lisney Sotheby’s International Realty.

Savills has also noticed a marked increase from overseas. “There has been an 87 per cent increase in website traffic specifically from the US in 2022. This was an uplift of 16 per cent year on year,” says Cianan Duff, associate director of Savills Ireland. “The UK buyer market is growing each year with many UK buyers seeking a home within the borders of the EU,” he says. “In the core market – under €1 million – we also see a lot of UK buyers retiring to Ireland. In many cases, they specifically seek out waterfront properties or those on or close to golf courses.”

On his home turf in Kildare, agent Paddy Jordan who has sold stud farms to sheikhs and mansions to media moguls, has found there are more enquiries from continental Europe, the Middle East and the US “mostly from the Irish diaspora, who have been away for the past 10 years”, he says. “Properties off the M7 and M9, within 30-40km of Dublin Airport are in demand.”

Education is a major factor for expats who want their children to have a similar education, and costs, too, come into play considering the average annual fees for higher-ranked universities and colleges in the US are $70,000 (€65,300), before accommodation and sustenance. But, sadly, as pointed out by Day, “Some expats are also constantly nervous about their safety and gun crime in the States. And while they will very much miss the outdoor lifestyle on offer there, major climate extremes are also becoming a factor.”

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle

Elizabeth Birdthistle, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about property, fine arts, antiques and collectables