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Northern Ireland… A Gradual Comeback to Real Estate Market - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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This seven-bedroom home, called Springfield, was built in 1855 in the Victorian style by a prominent family associated with the linen industry about 11 miles southwest of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

“It is one of the last linen houses remaining in private ownership,” said John Houston, who purchased the home with his wife in 2004 and began extensive refurbishment, retaining much of the architectural detail.

The original 18th-century cottage built on the home’s five-acre grounds still stands, but is under separate ownership, Mr. Houston said.

Springfield, with 10,428 square feet (969 meters), has two stories plus an attic level, and includes 16 functional wood-burning fireplaces, though the primary heating system consists of new oil burners, Mr. Houston said. There are six full baths and two half-baths.

The home’s main entrance opens to a large reception hall, with several nearby additional reception rooms, including a drawing room and a living room. The Houstons retained the original tile floors, along with hardwood floors like oak, maple and parquet.

“All floors are original or reclaimed from the era,” Mr. Houston said. “One of the floors which I put in is reclaimed from the Guinness factory in Dublin.”

Tall working sash windows have functional interior shutters. Restored details include cornicing, ornate decorative friezes and ceiling roses. Many rooms have Victorian-style radiators. The owners have made an ongoing project of collecting furnishings from the Victorian period, Mr. Houston said, which are available by separate negotiation.

Built-in Victorian benches surrounding an arched black marble fireplace in the dining room were originally used for warming visitors, he said. A cream-colored country-style kitchen with a casual dining area has granite countertops and an island with butcher-block tops. A four-oven Aga complements a twin butler’s sink, along with a Miele dishwasher and a hidden refrigerator and freezer. A former pantry, now a family room off the kitchen that stays cool because of the sheltering trees outside, still has its original metal meat hooks in the ceiling, Mr. Houston said.

The first floor also has a gym, a shower room, a games room and a reading room with a marble fireplace, twin glazed ceiling atriums and a minstrels’ gallery.

A large staircase with a decorative metal railing and a wooden handrail ascends to the second floor, with a 20-foot stained and etched glass window on the midlevel landing. The staircase is topped by a glazed dome skylight. The master bedroom has a bay window and a gray marble fireplace, along with an en-suite bathroom and a dressing room. Two of the other six bedrooms also have en-suite bathrooms with old-fashioned claw-foot bathtubs. The third-floor attic rooms have skylights and access to the home’s roof, with expansive views of the countryside and the local parish church, Mr. Houston said.

A sweeping driveway approaches Springfield, leading to two 200-year-old trees: a cedar and a giant redwood. The rear of the home has box hedges. Most of the property is formally landscaped, except for two paddocks and apple orchards now used for sheep grazing.

Springfield is surrounded by farmland, with the nearest grocery being two miles away. The city of Lisburn, with a population of about 120,000, is around four miles away, and the village of Hillsborough, with Hillsborough Castle, which is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II when she is in Northern Ireland, is about five miles away. Central Belfast and the international airport are a drive of about 20 minutes, while central Dublin is about an hour and 45 minutes away, Mr. Houston said.


Home prices in Northern Ireland began growing steadily in 2012, after having crashed by about 40 percent to 50 percent after the summer of 2007 because of the global real estate crisis, said Patrick Palmer, a partner-director with Templeton Robinson, who has the listing.

Home prices have risen anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent a year in recent years, depending on the market segment, said Conor Cooke, a partner with the Forestside branch of Ulster Property Sales, which focuses on the Belfast region.

“It’s an awful lot better than it was five or six years ago, Mr. Cooke said, “and we’re getting back into a consistent market and one that’s sustainable.

The June referendum in which a majority of Britons voted to leave the European Union has not affected the housing market in Northern Ireland, Mr. Cooke said.

Home prices have not yet reached pre-crisis levels, Mr. Palmer said. At the end of June this year, the average house price in Northern Ireland, depending on the area, ranged from 102,000 pounds, or about $126,480, up to about 148,000 pounds, or about $183,520, Mr. Palmer said.

In the Belfast region, which generally has the priciest homes, the latest Ulster University quarterly house price index showed the average price for a detached single-family home at just over 300,000 pounds, or about $372,000, Mr. Cooke said.

There are a handful of estates valued at more than 1 million pounds in such areas as Malone Park in South Belfast and the coastal Holywood and Cultra areas in northern County Down, estate agents said.


In general, there are few foreign home buyers in Northern Ireland, with most overseas buyers coming from other parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Mr. Cooke said.

Mr. Palmer said that though the vast majority of buyers are from Northern Ireland, he had seen some growth in the numbers of Eastern Europeans migrating into Northern Ireland and buying homes, along with occasional buyers from the United States and East Asian countries.


There are no restrictions on foreign buyers. Buyers are required to use a lawyer, with a typical fee running about 1,000 pounds to 1,500 pounds, or about $1,240 to $1,860, Mr. Cooke said.

As of late 2014, stamp duty was reformed in Britain, including Northern Ireland, meaning a smaller levy for those buying cheaper homes and a larger one for more expensive homes. The stamp duty is calculated on a sliding scale and tops out at 12 percent on the portion of a home’s sales price over 1.5 million pounds, or about $1.86 million, Mr. Cooke said.

On Springfield, the stamp duty would be about 41,250 pounds, or about $51,150, Mr. Palmer said. As of last April, the purchase of homes in addition to one’s primary residence, or those bought to rent out, are subject to an additional 3 percent duty on the entire purchase price, which in the case of Springfield would amount to a total of 70,500 pounds, or about $87,420.

Mortgages are available to foreign home buyers, though lending criteria are stricter than for those from Northern Ireland, Mr. Palmer said.


Northern Ireland tourism: discovernorthernireland.com

Visit Belfast: visitbelfast.com

Lisburn information: lisburn.com


English, Irish, Ulster Scots; pound sterling (1 pound = $1.24)


Property taxes, called “rates,” on this home are about 3,000 pounds, or about $3,720 a year.

(The New York Times)