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The rationale for moving from Dublin to commuter counties has never been stronger

Combination of Government incentives and hybrid working is allowing people to find better value and quality of life along the traditional commuter belt

Is there an exodus from Dublin? The number of people quitting the capital for its surrounding counties is up, according to internal migration figures from the Central Statistic Office.

Most Dublin residents who move house don’t leave Dublin. When they did move house in the year leading up to the census in April 2022, 77 per cent of them stayed within the county. The number of those breaking for its bordering counties that year, however, increased. Of the 21,954 who moved out of Dublin to somewhere else in the State, 4,078 went to Kildare – up from 2,974 at the time of the 2016 census, with a further 3,285 relocating to Meath, up from 2,602 at the time of that last census.

Wicklow had the next highest number of ex-Dubliners, with 2,370 making the move south, up from 2,201 in the year leading up to the 2016 census. The figures are from pandemic times, however, before home-working had fully embedded. With the “commute” now gone from the commuter counties for some, a move there can be hard to knock.

“Earpods, designer runners, a coffee and a dog”, that’s how you can spot the new wave of those moving from Dublin to Kildare, according to Eamon O’Flaherty of estate agents Sherry FitzGerald Brady O’Flaherty in Kildare. What’s most noteworthy about the ex-Dublin residents now moving to places like Maynooth, Celbridge and Kilcock is that they are out and about at all. Their forerunners were the classic “leave home in the dark, come home in the dark” commuters. Now able to work from home for at least part of the week, new residents are more visible in their adopted counties. Coffee shops are booming.


“They could be working with a firm on the other side of the world, so they don’t have to be in an office in Dublin. If they work in one of the big American banks, they might not have to log on until lunchtime,” says O’Flaherty. “I would see it in Celbridge, especially. You see people out having a coffee in the morning, going for their walk at lunchtime,” he says.

People leaving Dublin for the commuter belt isn’t news, of course. But the rationale for moving there has never been stronger. Mortgage-lending rules, new houses and the Help to Buy grant for first-time buyers are coalescing to make Kildare, Meath and Wicklow make a lot more sense. Homebuyer wish lists have changed in a short space of time; remote workers now need a space to work from. That means another bedroom, a home office or outdoor space for a garden pod. The cost to buy or trade up to that extra space in Dublin is now out of reach for many.

“A couple I sold a house to recently, they are living in Clonsilla. They are planning on starting a family, they bought a three-bed semi [in Celbridge] with a fourth room that they can use as a home office. You wouldn’t have a hope of buying one of those [for a similar price] in the city or its suburbs,” says O’Flaherty.

The average asking price in the capital’s north-city suburbs was €407,275, while in west county Dublin it was €375,226, according to the report for the first quarter of this year. The average asking price in Kildare was €343,000, while in Meath it was €335,480.

O’Flaherty cites another couple, former Raheny residents, who have just collected their keys. Trading up in Dublin 5 and its surrounding postcodes would have been pricey and anything affordable would have needed significant work. “He works two or three days a week from home. His wife works part-time from home and is a part-time stay-at-home parent. The kids are about to start school. They were in a three-bed in Raheny and they are moving out to a four-bed house with a garden. Remote work has been transformative for all of that,” says O’Flaherty.

The Dublin market actually goes as far as Greystones, Delgany and Bray now. You are pretty much dealing with Dublin prices there

With work increasingly decoupled from location, spending to live near the office makes less sense. For hybrid workers, the planned extension of the Dart to Celbridge by 2030 is a draw too. “The other kind of buyers we are getting are people in an apartment in Dublin who have remote or hybrid working,” says O’Flaherty. “What they can sell the apartment for in Dublin, they can buy a three-bed house [here].”

“An unintended result of the Central Bank’s mortgage-lending rules is that it has shifted housing demand out of more expensive areas such as Dublin and, effectively, down the motorway”, according to Trinity College Dublin economist Ronan Lyons, author of the Irish House Price Report for the first quarter of 2024.

“People would like to live near their work and, perhaps just as importantly, near their families and friends,” said Lyons. A lack of building and the mortgage rules is pushing them out and pushing prices higher outside of Dublin too, he says. Of the 32,695 new homes completed in 2023, close to six in 10 were in Dublin, Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow, according to CSO figures. Of all completions in Dublin in 2023, however, some 71.9 per cent were apartments. For first-time buyers with grants in search of a three- or four-bed family home, fewer are being built in Dublin.

People need more space, they can’t afford it or find it in the areas of Dublin where they want to live, so they are moving out, says Matt Forkin of Forkin Property in Wicklow. “If you gave people the option, would they rather be back in Dublin, they probably would,” says Forkin. “Having said that, they would want to be in one of the key areas like Dublin 4 or Dublin 6, and it’s just out of people’s reach.”

It’s not necessarily that Dublin is losing its allure, it’s that the gap between what they need and what they can get has gotten bigger. The average asking price in south county Dublin in the first quarter of this year was €657,760, according to the report. The average asking price across Wicklow was €415,225. Movers from nearby south Dublin have pushed up prices in north Wicklow.

“The Dublin market actually goes as far as Greystones, Delgany and Bray now. You are pretty much dealing with Dublin prices there,” says Forkin.

The opening of artisan bakery Scéal in Greystones, with Bread 41 to follow, may indicate that “Dublin” is moving out to service them. Government incentives have been huge in driving buyers towards new builds in Kilcoole, Newtownmountkennedy, Ashford, Rathnew and Wicklow, says Forkin. He is dealing with new-home sales in schemes in Wicklow town and Rathnew at the moment.

“The majority of our houses are standard three- and four-beds that fall into the Help to Buy net or the First-Home scheme, and they’re a huge incentive. In Wicklow town, you can buy a quality four-bed home at €500,000,” he says. Forkin has seen groups of friends decamp en masse from Dublin. “We are seeing a huge volume moving from Dublin – 91 per cent of purchasers across all four schemes are moving south from Dublin. That’s 91 per cent of 270 house sales in the last three years,” he says.

“In Tinakilly Park, we have six families that were all living near each other, renting in Cherrywood. The kids were friends. They all came together. They only wanted to buy in that development to be close to each other,” says Forkin. New builds in the development are for sale from €465,000, priced within the Help to Buy threshold of €500,000. A three-bed, three-bath home built last year, and where the garden has already been developed, is now for resale at €445,000. Even though the owners have added value, its lower price factors in first-time buyers, who can be blinkered by grants.

“It’s on at €445,000 which is effectively the price minus the €30,000 [Help to Buy grant]. You are saying it to people, but they want brand new, they are blinded by having to get the €30,000,” says Forkin.

Ex-Dublin residents are settling in quickly, and enjoying coastal living. “In the new estates, I’ve seen running clubs, people going walking their dogs together or meeting up with their kids on the green. I don’t see them leaving the estate, never mind the area.”

An extension of the Dart to Wicklow town is mooted. In the meantime, work-from-home pods are popping up in gardens. And then there’s the coffee. “Wicklow at this point, the main business in the town is coffee,” says Forkin. “We have a huge volume of coffee shops and they are all doing business and more and more are opening.”