News – New homes: Missing link in the holiday home chain

New homes: Missing link in the holiday home chain

If you want to have your own place in the country with all creature comforts, but you don’t like caravans, Donegal may house a solution. Dara Flynn reports on a novel getaway idea

Remember the caravan you had for the week in Tramore? The mobile home at Lahinch? Sure, great times were had — but let’s face it — two weeks, tops, was the limit. By day 15, both parents and children would have given anything to get back to a proper shower, central heating . . . and a bed that didn’t fold.
So when the boom came, people felt entitled to expect proper holiday homes — newly built with real bricks and mortar — to make them feel as though they had never gone away. But although 40% of the demand for new housing last year was for second homes, the average property of this type calls for a mortgage nearly as large as the principal residence. It was only a matter of time before somebody would spot a niche in the market.

Roll up Greencastle Cove, a new leisure homes scheme on the Inishowen peninsula in Co Donegal. The scheme’s makers hope to fill this gap in the second-home market, both in terms of function and price. The units cost €119,000 fully finished — that’s about €100,000 less than the average price of a new holiday home in Co Donegal.

Frank O’Sullivan, the managing director of Shomera, the homes’ manufacturers, says: “Though these units are based on the mobile- home idea, they suit people looking to have apartment- or duplex-quality homes on holiday. The mobile-home market isn’t able to offer that yet. The alternative is to spend up to €400,000 on a holiday home. Many people still can’t afford that. Our aim is to offer something in the middle.”

Visitors to the scheme might be forgiven for thinking they’re about to buy another garden shed. After all, the timber-clad facade and simple, pointed gables could suggest that when you open the door, you are going to set eyes upon a couple of rusty old hoes, a step-through lawn mower and a garden sprinkler.

But garden sheds these are definitely not, nor are they mobile homes. Each one measures 700 sq ft, has three bedrooms and, as the agent for the scheme, Kevin Haughey of Gunne, puts it: “Once you step through the door, it’s just like being inside a normal house.” The interior fit-out says normal, modern new home.

The development sits on a 10-acre landscaped site on the outskirts of Greencastle village. Shomera, based in Co Meath, teamed up with the developer James Keys to build the scheme, the first of its kind in the republic. There will be a total of 69 units when the development is completed, 21 of which went on sale two weeks ago. So far, 14 have been sold — 90% to Irish couples with young children, says Haughey, and the rest to golfers.

Although unorthodox in their basic design, the Greencastle Cove homes have all the technical trappings of any new homes scheme. The properties have gas-fired central heating with a normal gas boiler, radiator and thermostat system. Flooring is wood laminate, the bathrooms are kitted out with a full sanitary-ware package (from shower doors to towel rails), tiling to flooring, although the showers are not electric, and operate from an immersion-based heating system.

An open-plan kitchen/dining/living area leads to an internal hallway, off which are the three bedrooms and a family bathroom. The master bedroom has an en-suite.

The kitchen comes with a fridge/freezer, dishwasher, stainless steel oven and hob, and a washer-dryer. The splashback surfaces come tiled, and there are wooden slat blinds. Buyers at Greencastle Cove will receive a €5,000 allowance to be spent on furniture from a specified retailer in Derry city, a 45-minute drive away from the development. Once complete, the makers say, sitting in the living room, with its vaulted ceilings, wooden flooring and comfy sofas, will be little different from being at home. That is, until you step outside.

“In years gone by, you’d walk into a mobile home park, either to rent or buy one, and the furniture was typical mobile home — all benches against the wall with foam cushions, because of the space constraints. Now people’s expectations are higher. They want the comfort factor on holidays,” says O’Sullivan.

Ownership of the scheme is based on similar existing systems used by caravan and mobile home parks. Buyers at the Greencastle Cove development will not own the land, but pay an annual ground rent, making them leaseholders of the plot on which their holiday home sits. This ground rent, along with maintenance fees for upkeep of the grounds, facilities and the exteriors of their homes, will cost €1,500 annually.

Each property sits on its own patch of lawn, which the developers have stipulated cannot be fenced off from neighbouring properties, which sit about 20ft apart. The facade of the homes will be maintained and treated annually by the site’s maintenance company, another measure designed to prevent individuals from allowing the look of their property to become out of keeping with the overall design scheme.

Plans for the site include a purpose-built play area, a children’s playground, an all-weather football pitch and a tennis court. The scheme sits a few hundred yards from a sandy beach, known locally as Sweet Nellie’s, and there is an 18-hole golf course across the road. Greencastle village, with a permanent population of about 1,000 people, is 2km away.

The Greencastle Cove project is part of a €6m-€7m investment in a part of Donegal that remains relatively underdeveloped. There are few other holiday parks in the area, and most visitors to Greencastle are day-trippers. The Inishowen peninsula is still one of the country’s most famous scenic areas, and according to the agent, the holiday homes could be let for up to €750 a week in the high season.