My hardy old heart nearly broke last Monday night. What happened was that I had to deposit a friend at Shannon Airport to return to the U.S. and, dammit, when I set off for home afterwards after midnight, the old Mercedes took control of me and, instead of hitting the motorway for Killaloe, did I not find myself, as so often before, heading back towards lovely old Maisie's Cottage on the back road.
Next thing the old car attempted to stop at what was for nearly 20 years the home gate for Annet and me. It was a bright, clear night of a million stars and that made it worse.
Maisie's Cottage, no longer ours, now the property of a lovely Florida-based Kerryman, a new friend, was trying to lure me back inside again. It looked fabulous altogether.
The white gable glowed luminously and seductively. The thatched roof was gloriously moon-dusted. One golden window glowed at the front of the cottage. There was a silver thread of smoke from the chimney.
I had to use all my genetic toughness to hit the accelerator and drive the old car on down the silvered road towards what is now home in Killaloe by the Shannon. Maybe my lifespan was shortened by an hour or two by the time I took control of the journey again and was genuinely heading home, towards the Dutch Nation, the two dogs, the two cats.
Read more: Cheapest houses for sale in Ireland (PHOTOS)
Incredibly and poignantly, when I reached home, there was yet another email on my screen in relation to Maisie's Cottage. That has been a constant thread since, almost two years ago now, I announced in the Irish Voice that Maisie's was for sale because we were moving to the other side of Clare so that Annet would be closer to her new workplace.
And this message was from another Dutch Nation, a lady I will name only as Marilyn, a late entry to the long list of those who wanted to buy the old cottage. It is a powerful tribute to the Irish Voice reach in the market that the cottage, which would not have sold on the local market maybe yet, was sold inside a month of the article being published. I will be forever grateful for that despite the nostalgia engendered by the mythical moon-dusted thatched roof a few nights ago.
I still, however, empathize with the wishes and dreams of Marilyn and her family and, frankly, the rest of this piece is especially for her and for other readers amongst an apparently rapidly increasing segment of Americans who are now looking from behind a strong dollar at the possibilities of buying an Irish home either as an investment property or as a permanent base.
Marilyn, even though Maisie's is gone, I have good news for you today. I did a little research (something I avoid if possible) and discovered the following gems of information especially for you. If any other reader benefits from this then neither of us will begrudge that.
The property market here in the West, dear Marilyn and family, still is very attractive for you and yours because, with the strength of the dollar nowadays and the slow conclusion of our economic recession, you and your husband can buy bargains here. I learn the average house price in the U.S. last November was above $374,000 which is about €340,000.
Meanwhile, especially in the west, which is the most beautiful area of Ireland across the scale of life and living, and where you wish to relocate, the average house price is about €180,000 and, dear Marilyn, nearly 40 percent of all the houses purchased in the west by overseas buyers last year were completed for less than €100,000.
Is that not heartening news for you even if neither of us can open Maisie's front door again? I hope you feel better now.
I have more good, hard news. The American demand for Irish homes, because of the strong dollar essentially, has become such a live segment of the market that an enterprising group called the Real Estate Alliance are staging the first ever New York Property Exhibition in a few weeks time in Fitzpatricks Hotel in New York with literally thousands of homes on offer.
I have looked at some of the properties on offer, Marilyn, and there are some beauties there in Clare for asking prices of around €150,000. You can also get in ahead of the Manhattan pack, I reckon, by getting in touch earlier via firstname.lastname@example.org. I have personal knowledge of that Ennis firm and they are honorable and efficient.
Could I do more for you? I doubt it.
When, hopefully, you get your own Clare doorstep soon, you can invite myself and the original Dutch Nation over for a half-one of Paddy and glass of white wine. Or drop over here to Killaloe.