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Bucking the property trend
to Rathangan based online businesswoman Fiona McLoughlin
Leinster Leader – 7/04/2010
morning as I roll to a stop in the carpark at Hotel Keadeen in Newbridge. The government
is hours away from breaking its NAMA news and winter has returned in summer to
give us a cold snowy reminder of things past and bad things to come.
I arrive a
little early, ahead of my latest interviewee and assemble my thoughts. A few
minutes later FionaMcLoughlin joins me.
I think its ironic that on the very day the Government remodels our island to
make it a ‘Titanic’, that I’m interviewing a hugely successful business woman
who operates in the property market (and property, as we all know is our
me that’s originally from Castlerea in Co. Roscommon. After living in Newbridge
for three years, she now lives in Rathangan with husband Bernard Healy (a GP in
Newbridge) and three children Ryan 6, Erin 4 & Freya 2 – Steps of stairs.
smiles and admits, “I’m kept pretty busy.
out my working career as a nurse – about six weeks in I knew it wasn’t for me,
but it was the late eighties and it was all about getting ajob. So, I stuck at the nursing and
qualified. After graduating Fiona volunteered her services to an orphanage in Romania. She
recalls some of the horrific scenes she witnessed there, children chained to
radiators and children with misshapen limbs…
“It was in
2002 – it was pretty brutal and a bit of a shock to the system when we arrived
there – the smell of the orphanage; the conditions that they were in.. there
was some HIV and kids who were close to what we would call normal”.
Most of the
volunteers were non-medical, so Fiona and her two friends were the main medical
staff. “ It was a very difficult time. I’ll never forget the cold – we were
living in a Portakabin.”
it was a good life experience; in terms of realising how fortunate we in Ireland are,
and how different political regimes affect people on the ground. Nursing
however, was soon to be a thing of the past. She went to NUIG to complete a
degree in Law and Politics, winning awards for coming first in both subjects
for every year of the degree.
content with topping her class nor resting on her laurels, Fiona went to UlsterUniversity
and completed her Masters in PR, Communication and Advertising, with a view to
doing political PR in the longterm.
When I ask
for which party, she laughs and says, “ I’m not going to say: I never went into
it, because offamily differences and
thesis for her Masters was on the top then charity organisations in Ireland and as
it turned out, instead of entering the political domain, she applied for a
position with a charity.
known then as Cerebral Palsy Ireland
– I ended up becoming its managing director and rebranding them as Enable
Ireland. That was very exciting – it was a huge project.”
time Fiona started to invest in property at home and abroad and eventually left
the charity to focus on these interests.
commute to work in Dublin
was really brutal – on Thursdays you could be easily four to five hours in the
car, between the journey up and the journey down.
advising other people on how to present their property for it to sell well. “
It was kind of like your House Doctor in the Uk : de-cluttering your house,
presenting it in a specific way to maximise its potential for sale.”
California Fiona trained with the creator of the staging/house doctor model,
experiencing at first hand the practice of selling property privately, without
now own the trademark for that in Ireland. But it was while in America that I came
across the whole concept of selling privately. I wondered why no one was doing
this – was there some legal tie?”
no legal bind and Fiona incorporated all of her legal , property, branding and
staging expertise into growing Privateseller.ie.
proved an immediate hit with the Prime Time investigating team showing it was a
successful alternative to selling via an auctioneer and much less costly.
Endorsement of Fiona’s business came from the likes of Ben Dunne, Senator Shane
Ross, Conor Pope of The Irish Times; people who know the genuine article when
they see it. Privateseller.ie has also been shortlisted for a Golden Spider
describes herself as a ‘serial learner’ and her interest in new media led to
her studying for a Diploma in Digital Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation,
for which she earned a distinction.
“Privateseller.ie has done well despite the recession as sellers and buyers
both realise the margin for negotiation that exists, as up to 2 percent of the
price of the property is not paid to an agent when you sell directly.”
Ireland AM (where Fiona has had a regular property advice slot for three years
and is currently one of the all women panel on TV3’s Midday programme,
discussing everything from politics and current affairs) she introduced a “Start
your own business competition. “ We generated €50,000 worth of sponsorship for
the competition. The winner won everything from laptops to website to I.T
support for two years. Fiona approached The Daily Star who chipped in with over
€30,000 worth of advertising for the winner.
writing for the Star then, giving people business advice and that – the competition
went really well. We got great ratings. And we’re coming back to review the
winner in April to see how they’ve progressed,” she says.
thing happened though. Fiona says, “ I had been wanting to get into the
property letting and management for a while and one of the finalists sent me
some information about a property management company they were setting up.. so
Karl Byrne is now working with me.”
wasn’t enough for Fiona she’s currently involved in creating a House Price
Index. “You know in Ireland we’re all working off asking prices, which is why
we don’t know how hugely overvalued the properties have been with NAMA.”
been some talk in the Government of making house prices more transparent. “In
my experience even looking at the property services regulatory authority and
how long it’s taking for that to be set up, it could take years.
to set up a house price index – because the market is very local and all we
have are generalised average figures for areas. In someareas it has bottomed out.”
mentions the recent sale of properties in Mullingar for €82,000 as an example
of quick fire sales by cash strapped developers.
bottoming out, its local. In other area, if you’re a good negotiator, there’s
still 10 to 15 per cent more to come off it – if you don’t get too invested in the
house and you’re prepared to walk away from it, you can get the property at 15
to 20 per cent less,” she said.
activity in the market at present, Fiona says, primarily caused by first-time
the interest rates are going to go up, Greece is keeping the ECB rates
from going up at the moment and they may not go up until late this year or into
next year. But the national banks are going to push up the interest rates – it’s
the only way they’re going to get money out of people.”
that she believes in this so much that she changed her own portfolio to a fixed
rate. “Over the next ten years we will never see rates as low as they were up
until this point.”
the human aspect of the economic downturn; the negative equity; the
householders who can’t afford to make their mortgage repayments; the suicides
of the 29 property developers and those of the untallied ordinary homeowner.
advice is sound. “You have to contact your bank manager or whoever you’re in
debt to – no bank wants to take a house – what will they do with it? There are
options and don’t adopt an antagonistic approach – just discuss the issue and
go through the range of options.”
been a member of the Newbridge Chamber of Commerce for some years and if she is
representative of its members, then it has high calibre individuals indeed.