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    Three stunning new developments from Glenveagh Homes now available

    Over a long number of years Glenveagh have earned a reputation as being one of the best home builders in Ireland.
    Building modern homes for the way people live today, Glenveagh have been very proactive in bringing quality family homes to communities across Ireland.
    Not alone are you guaranteed a top quality A-rated finish with Glenveagh but you’re also purchasing homes designed for family living with large living areas, seeded rear gardens and modern kitchens.
    With that in mind we decided to take a closer look at three of Glenveagh’s developments around the country which are available right now.
    These include:

    Ruxton Oaks, Blackcastle, Navan, Co Meath: 3 Bedroom Homes from €310,000
    The Hawthorns, Tullamore, Co Offaly: 3 Bedroom Homes from €250,000
    Oldbridge Manor, Drogheda, Co Meath: 3 Bedroom Homes from €325,000

    Each of these fantastic new developments have so much to offer. Let’s have a close look into exactly what benefits each of them have.
    Ruxton Oaks, Blackcastle, Navan, Co Meath

    Ruxton Oaks consists of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom family homes located at a historic and mature residential setting just north of Navan.
    The development is close to a wide range of amenities including schools, leisure facilities and excellent transport links.

    Ruxton Oaks has something to offer every type of resident from the first-time buyer to growing families. The houses are particularly spacious and ideal for families of all ages. A fluid layout is enhanced by bright and airy hallways, while big, high-spec windows make the most of the natural light.

    Each room is also designed with modern life in mind with large living areas and kitchens ideal for family get togethers while the bedrooms offer the perfect sanctuary. Externally high quality materials and innovative building methods ensure homes that look great and are guaranteed to stand the test of time.

    Ruxton Oaks is located at Blackcastle, a well-regarded residential setting just north of Navan. As well as a wide range of amenities, they also offer beautiful scenery over the River Boyne and its mature forestry. The M3 and M2 motorways are also just a few minutes away while for commuters there are several bus routes as well as a park and ride facility a short drive away in Dunboyne.

    The area is steeped in history with Navan at the heart of the Boyne Valley region. With a wide range of attractions nearby, you can also take into the beautiful Boyne Ramparts Walk, a linear stretch of 8km pathway that runs from Navan to Stackallen that takes in Babe’s Bridge (the oldest bridge on the river) and passes by the ruins of Dunmoe Castle and Ardmulchan Church.

    As Ireland’s fifth largest town, Navan is packed with amenities for all the family. There are a wide selection of primary and second level schools in the area as well as three shopping centres, two hospitals and two parks. Navan also has a wealth of sporting facilities including a tennis club, rugby club, boxing club, pitch and putt club, hockey club, gymnastics club and several GAA clubs.
    Find out more about Ruxton Oaks and register your interest here.
    The Hawthorns, Tullamore, Co Offaly

    The Hawthorns consists of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom family homes located in a prime residential location near the thriving town of Tullamore in Co Offaly.

    Located less than 10 minutes from the M6 Norway and a leisurely 15 minute stroll from the town centre, The Hawthorns is a great opportunity to purchase a spacious A-rated home beside one of the Midlands’ most popular towns.
    Homes at The Hawthorns are designed with you in mind and are particularly spacious and ideal for families of all ages. A fluid layout is enhanced by bright and airy hallways, while big, high-spec windows make the most of the natural light.

    Rooms are designed with modern life in mind with large living areas and kitchens ideal for family get togethers. Externally high quality materials and innovative building methods ensure homes that look great and are guaranteed to stand the test of time.

    Transport links at The Hawthorns are truly excellent. Tullamore Train Station is a short seven-minute drive from your front door with a travel time of just 60 minutes to Dublin’s Heuston Station. The AirCoach also offers a fast and frequent service to Dublin International Airport while for motorists the M6 interchange is just 12km away, linking Galway and Dublin and offering access to many other main roads in the country.

    One of the major benefits of The Hawthorns is how urban meets rural. Tullamore is one of the biggest towns in the Midlands with a host of great local amenities to match. Yet in your leisure time you can enjoy some of the best scenery and walks in the area. This includes a trek up the Slieve Bloom Mountains or discovering the spooky history of Charleville Castle.

    There are a wide selection of primary and second level schools in the area as well as two shopping centres, the Midlands Regional Hospital and two parks. Tullamore also has a wealth of sporting facilities including a golf club, tennis club, rugby club, football park, leisure centre and Tullamore GAA Centre.

    Tullamore is a thriving town with something from everyone including a wide range of local and mainstream shops, while The Bridge Centre is the Midlands’ premier shopping centre, housing both a six-screen cinema and over 30 stores. At night the town really comes to life. It is packed with wonderful artisan coffee shops, restaurants and bars while there are a number of great days out nearby including Lough Boora Discovery Park, a 2,000 hectare facility filled with walking and cycling trails, unique outdoor sculptures, a fairy trail, stunning scenery and countless species of birds and plans. The beautiful Grand Canal Way also offers some stunning walkways as well as many water-based activities.
    Find out more about The Hawthorns and register your interest here.
    Oldbridge Manor, Drogheda, Co Meath

    Oldbridge Manor consists of 3 and 4 bedroom family homes on an elevated site 2km west from Drogheda town centre.
    Oldbridge Manor is an extremely attractive new development thanks to a tasteful combination of brick and render on the exterior of each home, long with an abundance of green space. Modern and innovative building methods and high-quality materials combine to create homes that will look great and feel comfortable for generations to come.

    Inside the interiors are thoughtfully laid out to suit modern living and are all finished to the highest of standards.
    A host of educational, recreational and retail amenities are within walking distance, making this an ideal location for families of all ages. Residents can also enjoy the restored Oldbridge House with visitor centre, amazing Victorian walled gardens and within the historic Battle of the Boyne site, just minutes from the front door.

    Drogheda itself is one of the oldest towns in Ireland. It is located on the M1 on the east coast of Ireland, mainly in Co Louth but with the south fringes of the town in Co Meath. It is just 40 minutes from Dublin City Centre and 30 minutes from Dublin Airport and is therefore incredibly popular with commuters and families with ease of access to the M1 motorway as well as a train station and numerous bus routes.

    There is a wide variety of schools and amenities on your doorstep including numerous schools, a third level college and a wide selection of shops, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, theatres, retail parks, a water park and much more. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Newgrange is also located 8km west of the town while Tayto Park is also a short drive. There is also a wide range of sporting facilities on your doorstep including several GAA clubs, golf clubs, a rugby club, a League of Ireland football club, leisure centres and more. The Ramparts playground and the Princess Grace Rose Garden are all within an easy stroll of Oldbridge Manor.

    The development itself benefits from the extensive River Boyne Board Walk, a beautiful greenway for walkers and joggers beside the picturesque River Boyne. The path leads to Oldbridge House, home to an extremely large and attractive park and the Battle of the Boyne museum.
    Find out more about Oldbridge Manor and register your interest here. More

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    Couple earning average wage cannot afford cheapest new apartments in Dublin

    A couple earning average wages still cannot afford even the cheapest new apartments in Dublin, according to a new report from the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.
    The Real Cost of New Apartment Delivery Report also found most types of apartments are not economically viable for developers to build for sale.
    The society’s report found that the situation has improved since its previous study in 2017, with development costs decreasing for two categories of apartments and economic viability also improving.
    It stated this was the result of the relaxation of building regulations brought in by ministerial guidelines in 2018, particularly the reduction in car parking spaces and the removal of a requirement that apartments have dual aspect or natural light in two directions.
    However, it found that the cheapest two-bed apartment available, which would be a low-spec build in a low-rise suburban development, had a sales price of €375,000.
    This would require a deposit of €37,500 and the buyer to have an annual income of at least €96,000.
    A couple on average incomes would be earning just €88,000 between them.
    The President of the SCSI said supports are needed and that the new Shared Equity Scheme should give apartment buyers a longer payback period because of the higher costs.
    Micheál Mahon also said it takes up to 18 months to get a 100-unit scheme to planning and judicial reviews are causing further delay.
    “Delays by utility companies, especially Irish Water, are also proving extremely costly and need to be addressed. As this report shows, apartment construction is a costly business,” he said.
    The report set out four-category apartment types consisting of low-rise suburban, which is three storeys high; medium-rise suburban (three to six storeys); medium urban (five to eight storeys) and high-rise urban (nine to 15 storeys).
    Each category had a range depending on whether the development was high-spec or low-spec.
    It calculated that the all-in cost of delivering medium-rise two-bedroom apartments in Dublin ranged from €411,000 for a low-spec unit in the suburbs to €581,000 for a high-spec one in the city.
    A profit margin of 15% is then added to see which categories are economically viable for developers to build for homebuyers.
    It found that low and medium-rise suburban are viable if they are low-spec, according to current market prices. This is an improvement since 2017 when only low-rise suburban fell into that category.
    ‘The Real Costs of New Apartment Delivery 2020’ report also found that the actual cost of building a medium-rise apartment makes up 47% of the overall costs.
    Other so-called “soft costs”, such as VAT, levies, and fees, make up 42%, with site costs amounting to 11%.
    The overall development costs for medium-rise developments have gone down by up to 9% while most categories increased.
    Chair of the SCSI working group Paul Mitchell said Build To Rent developments are more economically viable as there are fewer restrictions relating to the apartment mix, car parking and size.
    He said they are also more attractive to pension funds, which can take a longer-term view of the asset.
    Mr Mitchell added: “It is not surprising therefore that 76% of the units analysed are for rental rather than sale.”
    Meanwhile, another report found that Covid-19 had caused a 21% decline in property transactions across the country in the 12 months to November last.
    The GeoView Residential Buildings Report View found that in Dublin, the area with the highest number of property transactions was Dublin 15, which includes Blanchardstown and Clonsilla.
    The postcode with the lowest average residential property price was €230,233 in Dublin 10, which includes Ballyfermot, while the highest was €771,542 in Dublin 6, which includes Ranelagh. More

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    Estate agents struggling to meet demand for property, survey finds

    Estate agents say they are struggling to meet demand for property at present, especially from first-time buyers.
    A survey of 800 agents, carried out by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, found that over two thirds predicted property price increases in the year ahead with 24% expecting prices to remain the same and 8% anticipating reductions.
    The average price increase in 2021 would be of the order of 4%, the report concludes, with lack of supply acting as the main driver of prices.
    Property prices in Dublin are expected to see average increases of 3%, while Connacht-Ulster – which has some of the lowest prices – will see an increase of 6%.
    An increase of 4% is predicted for Leinster while prices are forecast to increase by 5% in Munster.
    The report’s findings underline the scale of the supply challenges facing the market.
    While three quarters of agents reported sales instructions increasing or remaining the same in the third quarter, by the final three months of the year the figure had dropped to just over half with the remainder reporting a falloff in instructions.
    Several agents said the slowdown was ultimately due to lack of supply with potential vendors deferring selling due to the lack of alternative options.
    The Covid-19 pandemic largely dictated the market in 2020 and it looks like that trend will continue in 2021.
    “The transition to working from home has led to a reordering of priorities and is driving interest in larger properties in regional locations with good broadband and lots of amenities as well as holiday homes in secondary locations,” TJ Cronin, Vice President of the Society of Chartered Surveyors of Ireland, said.
    “The trend away from urban areas is also reflected in the survey’s price projections,” Mr Cronin stated.
    “While Covid-19 has badly affected certain sectors, it has enabled prospective buyers who work in areas which haven’t been hugely impacted, such as pharma, tech, financial and the public sector, to increase their savings.
    “We’ve also seen a big inflow of Irish people returning from abroad, to Dublin in particular, and this has underpinned prices at the upper end of the market. In a situation where you have very limited supply – 83% of agents report having low levels of stock available in Q4 – the fear of missing out on a property will very often trump the fear of paying over the odds,” he added.
    According to an analysis by consultants EY, the construction sector will not return to 2019 levels of completions until 2024 at the earliest.
    It is estimated that in excess of 21,000 housing units were completed here in that year with the figure expected to have dipped below the 20,000 mark once again 2020.
    A newly instituted closure of building sites in recent weeks will likely impact supply in 2021.
    The Central Bank, among others, estimates that up to 35,000 units need to be completed every year in Ireland to keep up with demand.
    The SCSI concludes that housing supply and demand equilibrium may not be achieved until after 2030.
    By that stage, it predicts the sector would need to be building in excess of 60,000 units per year, over three times the current output and almost double the official estimates. More

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    Conversion tactics: making the most of unused space in your home

    An attic or garage conversion offers new possibilities. Potential savings from a mortgage switch, along with additional funds could help to maximise your space

    Sponsored by Ulster Bank

    In part 10 of our Switch it Up series, we’re looking at ways to make more of the homes we already have by exploring the potential of conversion options. A little extra space goes a long way in the average three bedroom semi-detached family home and with people working, exercising and participating in most forms of relaxation and entertainment at home, maximising our homes’ potential is on many of our minds.
    Garages and attics can offer real scope for change and can also be used in a variety of ways. We spoke to architect Denise O’Connor from Optimise Design who takes us through conversions of both spaces.
    Going out into the garage
    If you’re lucky enough to have an adjoining garage, the chances are it is being used to store a host of bits and bobs such as lawnmowers, tools and bikes. Instead, it could be used as a home office or for a playroom, both of which are higher up the agenda for many right now. While some garage conversions can be done without planning permission, in most cases it will be required. If you want to add a new window to the front of the conversion or raise the roof height, you’ll need to seek planning approval.
    “Garage conversions make great teenage dens, home offices or playrooms, where you don’t need huge amounts of space,” O’Connor says, pointing out that as garages are often long and narrow, it is best to be realistic about usage.
    “Others knock out space to create a more generous hallway and cloakroom. You could also have a playroom or den at the front of the house and the middle space could then become a guest toilet or a bigger utility room that serves the kitchen. A long and narrow space is good for that,” she advises.
    In terms of what’s required, expect to undertake the following. “Often in garages the floor level will be different to the rest of the house, so there would be a bit of work required to bring it up to the same level as the rest of the house. That means you’ll need to take the roof off as your floor to ceiling level would be really low otherwise,” O’Connor says.
    As well as that, power supplies are often located in garages and would need to be moved, while plumbing and electrics should be run into the garage, depending on use. Often garage conversions form part of a larger two-storey extension project, so those considering building on top really do need expert advice.
    A garage conversion on an average three bed semi-detached property can cost from €2,000 per sq m. Photograph: Getty Images

    “It’s important that a structural engineer takes a look at the build-up of the walls and the foundations because often it is not possible to build on top of what is already there,” O’Connor says.
    For those craving space for boisterous younger kids or older, bored teens, a playroom/den is an excellent choice, and careful planning will help you get the best space possible.
    “They’re most successful when you incorporate built-in joinery so you can maximise your space. Clever units that incorporate a TV but also lots of storage for kids’ toys – or some built in seating that doubles up as storage are highly recommended.”
    For those who want the second sitting room option, be mindful of configuration, O’Connor says.
    “When you’re planning, the position of the door is really important to think about. I’ve seen some conversions where if the door had been moved a couple of feet towards the kitchen they’d have been able to fit a good sized sofa into the room. The wrong configuration can make things limited,” she stresses.
    A garage conversion on an average three bed semi-detached property can cost from €2,000 per sq m with the total cost for a single storey conversion likely to be in and around €50,000, including all finishes.
    “It very much depends on what is being put in there too. If you were considering a downstairs wet room, for example, that might change costs,” she notes.
    Converting the attic
    A habitable conversion is what many people go for if they are planning something like a full master suite running the length of the property, including walk in wardrobe and en suite. Photograph: Getty Images

    Attics are something we don’t tend to think about except when we’re taking down the Christmas decorations or putting away the holiday suitcases. But there is plenty that can be done with this space overhead, and conversions fall into two categories: habitable and uninhabitable.
    The easiest to achieve is an uninhabitable conversion which can be finished for around €20,000. “You don’t need planning permission for an uninhabitable attic,” O’Connor advises. “Plenty of people use these spaces as hangouts, and they are valuable even if they can’t be classed as habitable. Insulating the attic is really worth doing as well as sound proofing as much as you can also.”
    An en suite will add value. Photograph: Getty Images

    On the other end of the scale is the habitable conversion which is what many people go for if they are planning something like a full master suite, including walk in wardrobe and en suite.
    “You can get a fabulous result with the attic and it opens up a whole new perspective for people in their home. This is untapped space right over your head, and is a superb way to make extra space for a home gym or office – it’s the ideal flexible space,” O’Connor says.
    The key to habitable attic conversions is headroom. “If it’s not comfortable enough for someone to walk around in, without raising the roof, it’s not a good idea. In the attic, 50 per cent of the floor area needs to be 2.4 metres high for it to be classed as habitable,” she advises.
    “The majority of houses won’t be able to achieve that without constructing a dormer ­– continuing out a flat roof section to give you that headroom. That needs planning permission and you should get professional advice if you plan to go down this route.”
    In terms of additions that add value, O’Connor says, “I would advise trying to get an en suite in, and make sure you include some kind of easy access to under eaves storage too, this is invaluable.”
    Depending on the size of the attic, a habitable conversion on a three-bed semi will start at around €35,000.
    For both attic conversion types, entry is another important factor. “Getting stairs up there can mean eating into one of the other rooms, often the box room, in order to get that run up. It’s important you take into account the space you will lose,” O’Connor says, adding “It’s much better if you can follow your existing stairs so it feels like a continuation.”
    About Switch it Up
    Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.
    Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours. Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what’s involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.
    Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.
    Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.
    “We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.
    “We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”
    For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie
    Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland More

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    Go up, go out: which extension type is right for you?

    Lots of us need more space or want to maximise what we already have. Potential savings from a mortgage switch, combined with additional funds could be the way to create a dream layout   Sponsored by Ulster Bank   For many of us, space has become something we’ve been thinking a lot about over the…
    The post Go up, go out: which extension type is right for you? appeared first on MyHome.ie Advice & Blog. More

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    Housing market showing resilience in the face of Covid-19

    The housing market has not been severely impacted by Covid-19 and has outperformed expectations, according to a new report from Goodbody.
    Its latest BER Housebuilding Tracker – which it calculates using data from Building Energy Regulation certificates – estimates that 5,500 units were completed in the third quarter of the year.
    That was up from 3,290 in the second quarter of the year, when the pandemic restrictions were at their most severe and building sites were closed down for several weeks.
    According to Goodbody’s calculations, that left output just 3% lower year on year.
    “This suggests that productivity levels have not been as severely affected by social distancing measures as we would have feared,” Dermot O’Leary, chief economist with Goodbody said.
    “We now expect 20,000 units to be completed this year, down 8% year on year, and up from our previous estimate of 16,500,” he said.
    The Central Bank estimates that 35,000 completions a year are needed to satisfy demand.
    However, Goodbody also said there were some indications that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic may be longer lasting.
    Many of the completions in the most recent quarter were accounted for by developments being completed at a faster pace.
    In the three months to August, housing starts fell by over a third.
    Goodbody also revised downwards its expectation for house price reductions.
    It now expects prices to fall by 5% by the middle of next year – half its previous forecast.
    Rents are expected to fall to a greater extent, the stockbrokers also predicted.
    “Mortgage lending is making some recovery, but we still expect new lending to fall 20% in 2020, before growing by 9% next year,” Mr O’Leary said.
    “Given the unpredictable nature of the virus and the government reaction to it, forecasts are still subject to a higher degree of uncertainty than normal,” he added.

    Tags: Ber housebuilding tracker, Goodbody

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    Cosy and colourful: this Wicklow cottage is a décor delight

    Switching your mortgage could offer you the opportunity to create your perfect space. For designer Emma Edmonds, doing the work herself is all part of the charm

    Sponsored by Ulster Bank

    In part eight of our Switch it Up series, we discover the cosy country cottage owned by interior designer Emma Edmonds. Lockdown was a time when many chose to try their hand at some form of amateur DIY, but when you’re a professional like Emma is, and you’re working from home, house renovations can be taken to a whole other level.
    [embedded content]
    Emma works as a designer and colour consultant for Stillorgan Décor and lives with her dog Maxi, “the love of her life”, in a beautifully renovated home in Ashford, Co Wicklow.
    A stand-alone cottage, it is a stone’s throw from Mount Usher Gardens and Avoca, and is compact in size with a sitting room, kitchen, bedroom and a dressing room, as well as a wonderful porch that blends the inside with the outdoors, which was built by Emma’s dad.

    Having bought her house 10 years ago, since then she has worked hard to turn it into her dream home. Plenty of inspiration came from visiting Martha’s Vineyard in the US on a trip with her mum a couple of years back.
    “The house was built in 1984 and when I bought it, it was liveable, but a little run down. I’m on my own, I didn’t have anyone to help me financially or otherwise so my mum, dad and brother were great,” Emma says. “They came in and ripped up smelly carpets, took out old cupboards and a few big sheds out the back. Since then, I have made it more old-world. I love the white picket fence look in America and have incorporated that style into the house.”
    In her own words, Emma is “never done” updating the cottage in some shape or form, mostly by her own hand, and at little expense. But renovating took on a whole new meaning recently. Tearing down walls, building patios and painting everything in sight are just some of her newest accomplishments. It gave her “little time to worry” she says.

    “In my bedroom, there was a plaster board wall that stuck out and I could never get the bed in the right place. I tried everything including patterned wallpaper but nothing worked, so one night I took a hammer to it and knocked down the wall,” she laughs.
    Taking inspiration from American interior designer and presenter of TV show ‘Fixer Upper’, Joanna Gaines, she decided to put shiplap panelling on the wall instead.
    “On the show they find terrible houses in good areas and renovate them. When they pull off the wallpaper they almost always find this thing called shiplap, which is planks of wood going across the wall. I hid the old wall by putting that up myself. I ordered the timber locally, clicked it together, screwed it to the wall and painted it white. That changed the room hugely for me. I keep it very neutral, all white, and seasonally, I add pops of colour,” she says.
    The bedroom is the only room where colour takes a rest. The rest of the house pops with black accents, deep forest hues, earthy neutrals and candy pinks.

    “I am a visual magpie and there are no rules in this house when it comes to the pieces I fill it with. It’s a mix of antiques and modern and I have loads of old photos everywhere,” Emma says. “My grandmother was a huge influence on me – I lived with her when I was going to college. She was a really good gardener and won awards for it. I have her picture in the kitchen, watching over me as I’m cooking the apple sponge she taught me how to make.”
    As a colour consultant, Emma knows you can rip up the rule-book. “People are sick of greys and that industrial look and are going for rich earthy tones, so I have Farrow & Ball’s Sap Green in the sitting room, which is really warm and cosy.”
    Recently she painted another sitting room wall a deep mustard – so it, “now looks like a pumpkin latte”. A large mirror and ornate black fireplace complete the décor here.
    “In lockdown, I also painted the kitchen cabinets black and papered the ceiling with a tin-effect wallpaper to give it that honky-tonk vibe. Everything is on a budget, and is usually done by me,” she says.

    One of her favourite spots is her American-style porch, which doubles up as another room. It’s the perfect spot to have a drink or cup of tea with a friend, especially while restrictions are in place. “It’s covered on all sides but open to the elements and is so handy in summer,” she says.
    The garden is her haven. “It slows you down. I recently made a patio out the back, it nearly killed me but I didn’t have time to worry while lifting slabs,” she laughs, adding, “I have a day bed on the porch so I plonk down there and read a book while listening to birds singing, which is heaven.”

    While Emma is happy to turn her hand to almost any DIY task, she did pass on fixing a leaky roof. “A really good local builder sorted me out ­– he got me a roofer and took down the old popcorn ceiling. It was upsetting when it happened, but I have a new ceiling there now and it’s plastered and painted. That’s the one job I couldn’t do myself,” she says.
    Next on the agenda is a possible attic conversion. “The perfect place to showcase all my Vogue magazines”, she says. Whether Emma takes on that particular project herself remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say, no better woman for the job.
    About Switch it Up
    Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.
    Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours. Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what’s involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.
    Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.
    Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.
    “We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.
    “We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”
    For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie
    Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland

    Tags: Switch It Up, Ulster Bank

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    How to get a warm, energy-efficient home now and into the future

    Improving your BER rating is a great way to reduce bills. Potential savings from switching your mortgage along with access to grants could be the way to create your own cosy home

    Sponsored by Ulster Bank

    This winter our homes will be our havens. We are likely to be working from them, relaxing in them and we will likely be using more light, heat and energy than ever before as a result. Lots are thinking about an energy retrofit right now too, because insulation and heating upgrades can greatly improve comfort levels in the home – as well as reducing our energy bills.
    So, in part seven of our Switch it Up series, we’re talking to two experts who explain how to maximise the efficiency of our homes.
    Many of us are a bit bamboozled by the process of upgrading our properties, and are unaware of the grants available to help us to bring our home from a low building energy rating (BER) to a higher one.
    A BER is a grading, from the highest at A1, to the lowest at G, on how much energy a home requires for heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation. The goal for many is to have an A-rated home. Better for the environment, achieving it will save you lots in energy bills – but many homes are nowhere near this grade.
    Architect Gearoid Carvill of ABGC Architects explains what a bad BER means for a property and how to achieve a better one. “CSO statistics tell us that more than 50 per cent of housing in Ireland is D-rated or lower, so most of us have direct experience of bad BERs. Typically, a lower grade means that the house is more expensive to run.
    “Studies show that improving BERs add value to homes and that changing up one level, say from C2 to C1, equates to a 1 per cent increase in property value,” he says.
    To improve a BER, the simplest and most inexpensive changes can help. “I have seen refurbishment projects where you could improve the rating by swapping out the light bulbs with LEDs,” he reveals.
    When considering a more significant energy efficient retrofit of a property, Carvill recommends homeowners start with the ‘thermal envelope’ – that’s the walls, floors, roof and windows.
    “In an uninsulated home, a third of the heat is lost through the roof,” he says. “Insulate your attic with a minimum of 350mm quilt insulation in layers between, and above the ceiling timbers. You could also insulate the water tank if uncovered.”
    “Then look to heating controls and update your heating system. You could replace an oil or gas boiler with a heat pump or by adding solar, to heat hot water, which can be done with an existing tank. Update heating to controls for time, temperature and zonal, if feasible. An individual thermostat costs from €70 to €200. Thermostatic radiator valves sense the temperature in the room and adjust the flow. They are inexpensive, less than €20 a radiator,” he adds.

    For retrofit refurbishment there’s a holy trinity: comfort, economy and environment. If done right you should achieve all three, regardless of which is your priority.

    Wall insulation and window upgrades go together. The cost of insulating a compact three bed semi-detached property could be around €14,000 to €16,000, but significant grants exist towards the work. The price for triple-glazed AluClad windows will be similar, he adds.
    Typically the average 3-bed semi-detached property will perform much better and be more comfortable once work is done.
    In terms of your energy costs, “previously published data by the SEAI suggests that for a 3-bedroom semi, the costs per annum could be €190 for an A1-rated home, and €4,000 for the G-rated home,” he says.
    Grant help
    While there are significant costs attached to many of the works, grants of up to €6,000 are available for most of them from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
    Tom Halpin, head of communications with SEAI, says to apply for a grant, start with a BER assessment carried out by a SEAI-registered assessor. The certificate and advisory report provided will explain what works can be undertaken to improve the home’s energy performance, and what works should be prioritised.
    There are a range of grants available. “There are grants for attic and wall insulation which make the home cosier and keep in heat,” he says.
    “Once you have sealed your home and it is more efficient, you move to improving the heating system. Grants for heating controls are available and we are also encouraging renewable heating systems in the home – that could be solar panels to generate hot water or going all the way towards using a heat pump. The lowest grant is €400 for attic insulation and highest is €6,000 for external wall insulation on a detached house,” Halpin says.
    Once you have decided on the works you want to have carried out, the process of applying for a grant is quite simple.
    “You must decide what contractor you want to use – and there are hundreds of contractors from across the country listed on the SEAI website that are committed to the terms and conditions of the grant scheme. They have the properly qualified staff to do the work and can be inspected by us at any time,” he says.
    “You need a metre point reference number which is written at the top of a bill from your electricity supplier. You then go online, put in all your details and select the measures you would like to undertake, and the contractor that you want to use, and you will get almost an instantaneous approval if all of that is in order.
    “You then have eight months in which to get the works done. Once you get the offer, you can schedule works with various contractors. Grants are paid directly into your bank account or can be paid directly to the contractor. You must then get a BER assessment carried out after the works to see the uplift to the property,” he finishes.
    Homeowners can also engage with energy supply companies such as SSE and ESB, which offer to manage the works as it helps towards their energy reduction targets.
    One major benefit to an energy retrofit is that a BER rating generally translates to a higher resale value of the property. However, Halpin says this isn’t usually a homeowner’s motivation.
    “The first big benefit is the comfort in their home, and research has shown people realise immediately that comfort,” he adds.
    For retrofit refurbishment there’s a holy trinity, Gearoid Carvill says. It is “comfort, economy and environment. If done right you should achieve all three, regardless of which is your priority.”
    About Switch it Up
    Switch it Up is a new 12-part series for those who might be considering switching mortgage provider to make savings on their monthly repayments. It is a follow-up to the award-winning Story of Home series, which explored the idea of home through the eyes of creative people who found their dream place to live.
    Now, Switch it Up, which like Story of Home is supported by Ulster Bank, looks at helpful information on home improvements as well as renovators’ home tours. Plus, we’ve got helpful answers to your mortgage switching queries: from the incentives to how long it will take (not long!) and what’s involved in making a mortgage switch, read our Everything you need to know about switching your mortgage guide at irishtimes.com/switchitup.
    Perhaps now more than ever, we want our homes to suit the way we live and work, and being able to explore the potential in our homes offers us flexibility. This series is designed to unlock the ways in which we might Switch it Up in our homes as our wants and needs change.
    Switching your mortgage could free up funds to help you make these changes. “At Ulster Bank, we want to be a part of the journey you take in making your home the best it can be,” says Sean Kellaghan, mobile mortgage manager at Ulster Bank.
    “We want to make the mortgage switching process as simple and as hassle free as you do,” he adds. Kellaghan understands the stress that can come with making a switch, and he offers reassurance.
    “We are here to help you, and the process is a lot shorter and a lot more straightforward than you might think. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the options and process.”
    For more information, visit ulsterbank.ie
    Ulster Bank Ireland DAC is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland More