Wednesday, 14 November 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Ciarán Lynch: ] They were advertised in newspapers and it became a major income stream for newspapers across the country. They were advertising prices above the market value and there was no clear information for purchasers on the true value, which gave rise to a compound effect that resulted in house prices increasing indefinitely. Now that the register has been established, there are some measures that could be introduced to improve it. I would welcome the Minister taking on board some of the suggestions I will make.
When a property is sold, there is no indication whether it is an apartment, a house - whether it be an end of terrace, gable end or mid-terrace house - or the square footage involved. There is no information other than its value. When people log onto the website, as many do - it has proved to be very successful in terms of public access - all they see is a valuation of the property. That is fine if one knows the type of property at which one is looking, but the website does not include a general scheme of the house, nor does it give the relative value.
I propose to the Minister that, as part of the conveyancing completion process - I know the information is assimilated by the Revenue Commissioners and sent to the database - including some additional boxes to be ticked in the system would allow for an indication to be given as to whether a property is a house or an apartment and has one or three bedrooms, as to the square footage and so forth. That would lend itself to allowing more accurate information to be provided and achieve the goal we want to achieve in the residential property market, namely, to ensure people are given accurate information and pay realistic prices for their homes.
The Property Services Regulatory Authority which comes under the aegis of my Department published the Residential Property Price Register as recently as 30 September. All of the information on the register is publicly available, free of charge, on its website. The register has been produced by the authority under section 86 of the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 which explicitly provides that the register of residential property prices shall contain the address of the property, the price at which the property was sold and the date of sale of the property. The register includes information on residential properties purchased in the State since 1 January 2010, as declared to the Revenue Commissioners for stamp duty purposes. It contains the price paid for individual properties and details of all residential sales, both cash sales and sales with mortgages. The particulars published in the register include the price, the date of sale and the address, including house number, of each residential property sold in Ireland since 1 January 2010. The information will be updated on a regular basis and, for the most part, is published within one month of the date of sale of the property.
The register can be searched by reference to a number of criteria, including all sales by county, city or town, individual property address and year. This important new facility enables members of the public to discover easily and quickly prices paid for properties sold in Ireland. It provides buyers and sellers of residential property with a service they have previously lacked, namely, accurate and up-to-date information on the market price of individual properties on the date of sale.
The publication of the Residential Property Prices Database fulfils a key commitment in the programme for Government "to improve the quality of information available on the Irish housing market by requiring that the selling price of all dwellings is recorded in a publicly available, national house price database". The establishment of the database was first recommended many years ago. In my first year in office as Minister I prioritised enactment of the required legislation, among other things, to facilitate the establishment of the Residential Property Price Register. Accordingly, I formally established the Property Services Regulatory Authority on a statutory basis on 3 April last. The register was put online with praiseworthy speed.
In recent years, because of the steep downturn in the property market, it has been difficult to obtain accurate information on property prices. This uncertainty has led to a lack of investor confidence and may have contributed to stagnation in the property market, particularly among first-time buyers. The publication of the register should, I hope, help to remove some of this uncertainty, restore some confidence in the property market and provide for some transparency in residential property sale prices. However, it cannot solve all of the problems impacting on the property market.
I note the Deputy's view that other information should be included in the register such as whether a property is a house or an apartment, the number of bedrooms, the square footage, the site area and the local authority area. It is important to note in this context that the register is not intended to serve as a property price index. In accordance with the legislation, the details made available on the property price register are limited to price, address and date of sale. They do not include such details as property size or number of rooms. Individuals interested in particular properties who look them up on the website have the facility to visit the area if they are not familiar with it and readily identify whether they are talking about a detached house, a semi-detached house, an apartment, a cottage, a bungalow or any other type of construction. The register has simply been designed to provide on an ongoing basis accurate prices of residential properties purchased on a particular date. As I have mentioned, the information contained therein is derived from the information declared to the Revenue Commissioners for stamp duty purposes. The categories of information sought for inclusion on the register are not included in the information submitted to Revenue for stamp duty purposes. Accordingly, it would not be possible to include the information the Deputy is seeking in the register.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch: I thank the Minister and commend him for bringing forward this measure which, as he mentioned was included in the programme for Government. The house price property database is a good idea, but I am proposing measures that would improve it. We must focus on the desired goals and outcomes in having a house price property register. The information to which I have referred that could be included in the register is already available because it is part of the conveyancing process. People would lay out a description of the house and it would be a case of ticking boxes to indicate whether the property was a house, a flat, an apartment, a gable end, semi-detached or detached property, and the number of bedrooms. One would be required to tick four or five boxes and this could be done as part of the transfer of the information to Revenue. I am aware the information is used for stamp duty purposes, but as we move towards a more progressive property tax model and away from stamp duty, we need to adopt a more progressive approach to the way we determine the valuations of properties. I impress upon the Minister that what I am proposing would make a good idea better and future proof what has been a missing aspect of the way houses are costed.
Deputy Alan Shatter: I again thank the Deputy for raising the matter. What he has said is interesting and I will bear in mind what he has suggested. I do not believe, however, that it falls within the current requirements of the legislation which only prescribes the information currently on the register which has been furnished since 2010. Such information could not be obtained retrospectively. It may be at some future date by way of amending legislation or other statutory instrument. It would be possible to expand the register further and it does provide substantial additional information. It is a website that is very popular and which has had many thousands of hits. It makes the information available readily accessible to many individuals. It is a great pity there was no such site ten years ago.
Deputy Ciarán Lynch: I agree with the Minister.
Deputy Alan Shatter: I do not intend to make wild claims for it. I will not suggest we necessarily would not have had a property bubble or boom if such information was made available many years ago, as individuals might still have been stampeded into buying property and led to believe prices always increased and never collapsed. We might still have had banks failing to undertake due diligence assessments of individuals and offering sums of money that were unrealistic to purchase property in circumstances where a due diligence investigation would have indicated such individuals were entering into unaffordable arrangements. I do not, therefore, want to make wild claims for the register. It is a brick in the wall of the protections necessary for individuals and provides for a degree of transparency. I again thank the Deputy for his interest in the matter and the suggestions he has made.
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