Ireland left the International Monetary Fund and European Union bailout program in December 2013, becoming the first of the European bailout nations to recover its financial independence. In the same month, unemployment dropped to a three-and-a-half-year low of 12.4 percent, close to the EU average of 12.1 percent and down from a February 2012 peak of 15.1 percent. Meanwhile, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is predicting that the Irish economy will grow by 1.9 percent in 2014, which is the most optimistic growth prediction for any country in the Eurozone.
After a catastrophic collapse, Ireland is emerging as a leader in Europe's economy, and real estate values are moving up. In fact, property values in some parts of the country have been increasing at double-digit rates for the past two years. House prices in Dublin rose by 15.7 percent last year, according to the latest figures from the country's Central Statistics Office, and some current values are appreciating faster than they did during the real estate driven Celtic Tiger boom period. Overall, values for residential property countrywide increased by 6.4 percent in 2013.
However, while Ireland is seeing boom-era growth rates, prices in many parts of the country remain at crash-era lows. Outside the capital, it is still possible to find properties with price tags that are half what they were during the boom.
To put this into perspective for would-be retirees, Ireland's real estate market is priced today where it was about 15 years ago, presenting an opportunity to invest in an Irish home of your own at pre-Celtic Tiger pricing. The best case would be a cottage or country house purchased as your eventual retirement residence that you could rent out between now and your eventual retirement. The ongoing recovery in this country means its rental markets are more active and profitable than they have been in two decades.
The best purchases with an eye toward cash flow from a rental would be on the tourist trails, including the Ring of Kerry, the southwest coast, Galway and around Dublin. Pay attention to proximity to amenities that would be important both to your tenants and yourself -- the ocean, a nearby airport so that you can hop around Europe or a town so that you can walk where you want to go rather than driving. (Car ownership is expensive in Ireland. Plus, of course, they drive on the left.)
You could buy in today's under-valued market for your eventual retirement or your part-time retirement. Janet Liggon bought land on the southwestern coast of Ireland, in Kerry. On this land, Liggon built two houses, one for her personal use and one to rent out. Each summer, Liggon took a trip to Kerry to check on her rental property and to meet with her rental manager. During the visit, she stayed in one of the two houses she'd built, her Irish home. The income from renting out the second of the two houses covered the carrying costs and then some for both properties, with money left over to subsidize Liggon's annual Irish holidays. Then, every April 15, Liggon was able to take those travel costs as deductions on her U.S. tax return.
Ireland is one of the friendliest and safest places in the world. The people speak English and welcome American retirees. The cities are fun, and the country and coastal landscapes are among the most glorious on the planet. And now your money buys a whole lot more property on this Emerald Isle than it has in a long time.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 28 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her newest book, "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas", published by Wiley & Sons, is the culmination of decades of personal experience living and investing around the world.