If we’re honest, many of us have that innate interest in land and property so it’s not surprising that our coverage of the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant has received a big reaction from readers this year.

Since the grant of up to €70,000 was announced, many are looking at that old derelict cottage with a new eye.

The scheme has been gathering momentum and the most recent figures released from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in June show that out of 8,193 applications, 5,049 have been given the green light.

Such is its success, two off-shoot schemes have been launched in the last month. The first has an element that is specifically of interest to farmers, while the second is applicable to first-time buyers.

Last week, the Conservation Advice Grant Scheme was announced. This is relevant to readers who own a traditional house and who are availing (or considering) the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant. Doing up traditional houses can require a certain level of expert conservation advice and this grant covers up to €5,000 of those costs.

There are two streams of properties included, one of which is a vacant traditional farmhouse. The building could be a protected structure or a historic farmhouse located within an Architectural Conservation Area. Vernacular farmhouses are also included; that is a house constructed by ‘ordinary’ people following long-established folk traditions and using materials such as thatch, stone, slate, earth, wattle or unsawn timber.

Niche area

In fairness, it’s a pretty niche area but those that have farmhouses like that may feel like they can’t see the wood from the trees in terms of the potential of the project.

The conversation expert will visit, assess the building and compile tailored conservation advice – outlining improvements to restore the house to a habitable state while enhancing the character and energy efficiency. Usually, this advice costs in the region of €7,000 so it takes a good dent out of it.

However, the timescale is very limited and applications must be submitted before 5pm on 31 July. If interested, don’t wait around, although we have been informed that it will re-open in January 2025. We want to highlight it to readers this week, given the tight deadline, but we’ll be doing a more detailed reader Q&A in next week’s issue.

So if you have any questions, scan the QR code and we’ll endeavour to get them answered for you.

One of the biggest issues around the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant is finding the money to fund the project in progress as the grant isn’t received until the project is signed off.

Now there is a bit of relief – for first-time buyers anyway. The Local Authority Purchase and Renovation Loan (LAPR) will go live in the coming weeks.

Essentially, it means if you’re a first-time buyer planning to avail of the grant and you cannot get the funds needed from the bank, this is a bridging loan for purchase and renovation works.

So what’s potentially on the table? Single applicants can get up to €70,000 while joint applicants can get up to €85,000; but the actual amount applicants are eligible for is based on their borrowing capacity which is 35% of their income.

Let’s be honest, this is all positive and welcome. However, the biggest negative that we are hearing from our readers on the grant itself is it’s a slow process. This is certainly the case for Niamh O’Mahony and her partner Tony Malone who are taking Irish Country Living on their refurbishment journey of an old cottage in east Kerry.

A month has passed since we put them on the front cover, and they are still waiting for an answer as to whether they can avail of the grant. They certainly have itchy feet as they are both teachers and are hoping to get going during the summer months.

We’ll keep you updated.