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'opportunities' Ireland’s biggest private landlord eyes up expansion to cities across country

'We see further opportunities to grow in the likes of Cork, Limerick, Galway,' says chief executive Margaret Sweeney

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Margaret Sweeney, chief executive of Ires. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Margaret Sweeney, chief executive of Ires. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Margaret Sweeney, chief executive of Ires. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Ireland’s biggest private landlord is eyeing a move into Limerick and Galway, and further expansion in Cork, as investor appetite for apartments continues to grow.

Market-listed Ires Reit is currently mainly focused on the private rental market in Dublin, where it owns close to 4,000 units in dozens of blocks. 

Outside the capital, Ires owns just 50 apartments – in a block at Harty’s Quay in Cork – but Ires Reit chief executive Margaret Sweeney told the Sunday World that other cities are now coming into focus, especially as more and more people are working remotely. 

“We see further opportunities to grow in the likes of Cork, Limerick, Galway. That would be part of our strategy,” Ms Sweeney said.

“We are well supported by our shareholders and our banks to fund any new opportunities as we see them,” Ms Sweeney said.

Their ambitious expansion plans suggest there is no lack of appetite for further expansion here by big institutional landlords, despite controversies over the growing scale of so-called cuckoo funds in the housing market – especially in the Dublin area, where landlords are now the biggest buyer of new homes. 

In Dublin, demand for rental property remains strong – despite an increase in remote working since the start of the pandemic, according to Ms Sweeney.

“What we are seeing a lot of job growth and a good economic recovery in Ireland. The economy is very strong, Dublin is a very young city, and we are seeing a young, well-educated population staying in Ireland.

"All of that is creating a lot of demand for rental accommodation,” she said.

“Dublin is still a significant area of economic activity, so you will always see demand for housing. We see it particularly close to good public transport access.”

Ms Sweeney’s comments come as Ires announced the purchase of 152 apartments at Ashbrook, in the affluent Dublin suburb of Clontarf.

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The €66m two-phase acquisition is made up of 108 completed apartments, developed in the early 1990s, which includes a mix of 39 one-bed and 66 two-bed homes. In addition, there are three three-bed units in the development.

Just over 90pc of these apartments are currently occupied, and Ires expects all the units will be leased in first three months of this year.

Roughly two-thirds of the 108 units are two beds, and the average rent is €1,620 per month.

As part of the transaction, Ires has committed to buy a further 44 apartments under a forward-purchase contract on an adjoining development site.

This development includes 11 studio apartments and eight one-bed units. In addition, there will be 25 two-bed apartments in the development.

A contractor has been appointed by the vendor, and delivery of completed apartments to Ires is expected in the second half of next year.

"This acquisition presents the opportunity for Ires to invest in an attractive residential property, as well as adding further supply of new apartments in the much sought-after location of Clontarf,” Ms Sweeney said.

“The property and development site are located close to a host of employment, amenity and transport routes, as well as being a short commute to the city centre. This accretive investment is in line with our growth strategy and complements the overall Ires residential portfolio."

The acquisition will be funded from the company's existing credit facilities.

Both properties are in a Rent Pressure Zone and rents are subject to rent regulations, Ires said.

Based on current annualised passing rents on the existing leased residential units and the lease-up of the vacant units plus units to be built, the asset is expected to generate a gross yield of 4.93pc, says the Dublin-listed landlord.

Ires currently owns 3,829 apartments and houses for private rental in Dublin and Cork, with an additional 69 units due for delivery at the end of the first half of 2022 under pre-purchase contracts.

The company has a further 61 units currently under construction directly on owned sites, with planning approval to develop an additional 543 homes on its existing sites.

Ires apartment blocks range from the Marker Apartments at Grand Canal Square in the Dublin docks, to the Elm Park development close to RTÉ in Dublin 4, to modern developments in Tallaght, Finglas and Inchicore.

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