Living in Ireland: An Insider’s Guide

Maybe it’s the music. Or the breathtaking landscapes. Or the witty humor and long, effortless conversations. Even without a drop of Irish blood in your veins, it’s easy to fall in love with Ireland’s charms, traditions and strong sense of community.

The recession that followed the Celtic Tiger boom hasn’t altered the essentials that make the Emerald Isle special. I’m International Living’s Roving European Editor, and I’ve called Ireland home for the past 24 years. Here’s why: There are no language difficulties, and I’m one of those people who prefer a cooler climate with four distinct seasons. Plus, I have a passion for ancient places, literature and the arts, all of which Ireland has in plentiful supply.

It’s not the world’s most inexpensive place to live—but that’s countered by the benefits it offers its residents. Every resident is entitled to free hospital treatment. (And depending on age or income, you could be entitled to all health care free.) If you’re of retirement age, you can avail of free public transport. Are you a golfer? At many clubs, green fees are as low as $26.40.

Yes, umbrellas are needed at times…but without rain there would be no rainbows. Not that much rain fell this summer. The sun was shining almost constantly…the sky a cloudless blue…and temperatures reached up to 86 degrees. Plenty hot for beaches and garden barbecues.

Some good news if you’ve ever dreamed of buying your own piece of property in Ireland: prices have tumbled since hitting a peak of speculative frenzy in 2007.

A new one-bedroom apartment sold at auction for $19,800 this March. Even in County Kerry, one of Ireland’s most dramatically scenic coastal counties, brand-new three-bedroom houses just outside the heritage town of Listowel are priced at $99,000.

In less fashionable (but just as beautiful) inland counties, new properties are priced even lower. During the boom years, developers built thousands of properties that remain empty. Some are attractive small developments in scenic locations that are still attracting buyers…just not with the fervor they once did. That means that you have your pick of properties. Like those in a fully landscaped development in the River Shannon village of Cootehall. Only three of 21 new properties (1,055 square feet), priced at $91,000, remain unsold.

But development properties aren’t the only choice. In the county I live in, County Roscommon, habitable countryside cottages can be found for $33,000. A two-bedroom, two-story house on a half-acre site is $43,500. Wherever you want to live in Ireland, you’ll find property bargains…

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