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In the past 18 months, DNG has opened two offices in Dublin, in Raheny and Rathfarnham; Lisney has opened one in Killester, while Owen Reilly opened his third office at Portobello in late 2016. Other large companies such as Sherry FitzGerald and Savills also have branches around the country.

The latest company to invest in bricks and mortar — the very thing it’s selling — is Hunters Estate Agent, which opened its fourth branch in Dublin beside the Yellow House pub, in Rathfarnham, last month.

Jamie Douglas has moved over from Hunters’ Dalkey office to run the new branch, but he has first-hand knowledge of the area. He went to school in Rathfarnham, his wife grew up there and he’s just spent 14 months living with the in-laws there while his own house in nearby Rathgar was being renovated.

Douglas isn’t convinced that pure online agency is the way to go just yet. “We feel that it is crucial to have a presence in the community,” he says. “If you want a community to support you and — crucially — trust you with their biggest asset, we feel you need to invest in the area, both in terms of having a physical presence and supporting clubs and schools.”

The estate agency is sponsoring one of the teams at the local Ballyboden St Enda’s GAA club.

Online estate agencies are looking to make their mark in Ireland with Moovingo and MoveOn.ie ramping up their business strategies. Move On, founded by David Madden, raised more than €200,000 on the crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and will be looking for another €2m next year so that it can expand its business.

Both companies are looking to replicate the success of hybrid UK estate agency Purplebricks, which doesn’t have physical branches but does have on-the-ground agents.

The battle lines have been drawn in the mindset of Ireland’s estate agents, however, with the long-established companies still very committed to the physical branches.

Douglas says the branch is already benefiting from footfall as a result of its location next to the Yellow House, and has secured commissions beyond Rathfarnham (in places such as Kimmage and Firhouse).

Vendors like to see their homes in shop windows while house-hunters like to stop and scan what’s on offer, he adds.

“It is important to have a point at which both vendors and prospective purchasers can meet us in person.”

It remains to be seen if young pretenders such as Moovingo and MoveOn.ie — which tend to offer flat-fee structures to clients — can take a sizeable chunk of Ireland’s property market.Will generation smartphone prefer to do it all online or will they eventually raise their heads and crave human interaction?





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