“Build it and they will come,” says Maggie Molloy, paraphrasing words made famous by the 1989 film classic Kevin Costner.
But it’s not about a baseball pitch in a cornfield: Maggie, based in Munster, is evangelical to breathe new life into rural Ireland.
Maggie, from Askamore, near Gorey, County Wexford, embarked on her odyssey, cruising along motorways and back roads to uncover potential property purchases previously hidden from house hunters, after launched his Cheap Irish Houses Instagram account @cheapirishhousesFour years ago.
She had taken to social media to share how she had found value buying and renovating her own rural ‘forever home’ in Co Tipperary.
Now 41, she bought her property when she was 23.
It was Maggie’s Instagram account that inspired the RTÉ One TV seriesthat she co-presents with a building engineer and Property & Home columnist Kieran McCarthy.
“My Instagram account was taking off and I had done an interview with The Business Show on RTÉ’s Radio One, when the producer said, ‘That’s a fantastic idea for a real estate show. But it wasn’t even on my radar at the time, I hadn’t even thought about it,” she says.
But it got several TV production companies thinking and they got in touch immediately after the radio show aired. “I have to listen to find out what I said that was so fascinating!” said Maggie.
“One of the ideas that came up was that I do a show about bringing in celebrities, finding holiday homes in the west of Ireland. I said, ‘They already have homes! They don’t need it.
“I wanted something that helps young people, and even those not so young.
“If you’re at the stage where you can buy vacation homes, you can find them yourself or pay someone to find them. That didn’t sit well with me.
“The majority of my Instagram followers were people, buyers young and old, who were really surprised that you could find a house at the prices I was finding for them.”
Whenfirst hit our screens, it had a “novelty” factor, she says.
“I always thought I wanted to convince people that there was something new about coming back to live in rural Ireland: build it and they will come. We had to get young people to want to live here,” says Maggie.
What about coaxing mindsets out of Dublin – and out of the suburban belt?
The conversation rushes decades into the future from– in terms of cinema.
“Sometimes it’s like we’re in, with all of us living here in the quarters. And it looks like the government doesn’t care about anything but the “Capitol”? But maybe it’s just a need for more imaginative thinking,” she says.
“I say: bring places back to life; take things slightly beyond the Leinster border. And I say that as a girl from Leinster.
“Dublin was my city, but once you get past Kilkenny you will go to Cork or Limerick. Dublin simply does not exist in the minds of people outside of Leinster.
“And the government doesn’t realize that. And these [Cork and Limerick] are massive and functional cities. Once you arrive in Munster, you realize that.
“I live half an hour from Limerick City and it’s so much nicer to shop than in Dublin. There are no traffic jams. You have to get out of Leinster to realize that Leinster is not the be-all and end-all.
“I’ve been a Munster girl for 19 at this point so I see it both ways now.
“There are villages and towns that are empty right now. There are houses that are empty. We just gotta give people the incentive [to sell and to buy].”
This new series offrom RTÉ One on September 1, is all about value and the presenter is on the hunt for the most affordable properties in Ireland, from bungalows to forgotten farmhouses.
Buying a home seems increasingly out of reach in these times and as property prices soar Maggie and Kieran are determined to find value to have ‘if you look in the right places’ , she adds.
“Over the seasons, I think the house hunters that appear on the show are much more open to living in houses that aren’t serviced,” Maggie says.
“I think in the first season people were scared of living in old houses. I encourage people to come in and look past the clutter. I think young people at the time weren’t not convinced yet, but this season they are content to do less [renovation work].”
This is also probably good news and in the midst of a cost of living crisis?
“People are learning more about houses. I think the stigma of living in an old house is disappearing more and more,” says Maggie.
“Before, people thought it was about not having a lot of money; it would have been something that came from previous generations, but it has filtered down to us.
“Someone might say, ‘I’m going to see a house, it’s an abandoned cottage’ and be put off by a family who’s afraid it’s all damp, for example.
“But for our generation, it was Grandma’s house. And Grandma’s house was lovely, with apple pies and boiled sweets in a jar.
“Young people are becoming much braver and much more apt to love homes as they are – not like that ingredient for anything they want to do with them.”
Does Maggie think buying these properties will save the lives of existing communities and be more sustainable in the long run when it comes to services?
“I see the number of abandoned houses and people renting them and buying them. It is so nice. Our whole community has come to life so much.
“A couple contacted me about a small house across the valley. They wanted to bid on it, so they were wondering if I could keep it off Instagram. [Maggie’s Cheap Irish Houses Instagram page].
“Now every time I see her I think, ‘This couple got this house, it’s another house with a family and children who live in the community.
“We just need that enthusiasm. People will come, then services will follow.”
Maggie is keen to see rural communities come back to life with “little cafes, schools, post offices reopened”.
She also likes to show the potential of what can be done once you have purchased this property, on her Instagram page.
“I haven’t spent a lot of money on my house and everyone loves my house. Not everyone clears out the place or hires a contractor, some just potty and do very little.
Maggie has transformed her living room or “great room” into a kitchen. “I did it only five years ago. There were a lot of things that I didn’t take away and change,” she says.
“People realize that it’s good to do a little, and not spend a lot of money when I say, Well, this is my house.
“In rural Ireland, people did a bit of everything. My father is a carpenter, but he has so much knowledge in his head, and there are so many people like that.
“My husband was a plumber before the recession and now he’s a graphic designer.
“I’m going to do everything, I think I’m not afraid of doing things wrong!”
“I think the people who remodeled and worked on these homes for the past 100 years, they were never professionals, they were just community people.”
Maggie has also started filming a new series,focusing on finding affordable properties overseas. “It’s aimed at people who want to work remotely and have thought about taking advantage of falling house prices in Europe,” she says.
“When you see good value, you just want to share it with people.”