How do you make a show called Cheap Irish Homes when there’s no such thing as a cheap Irish home? The answer is that you tweak the formula and book some budget airline seats. That’s what we get with Cheap European Homes (RTÉ One, Thursday, 7pm), where presenter – leaves the old country behind and heads to southern Europe in search of affordable dwellings.
Up for grabs, she says, are “the most exotic and sun-drenched properties the Continent has to offer”. So the grass is greener – even when, technically speaking, it’s also browner.
Our first stop during a chatty and enjoyable opening instalment is central Portugal and the town of Tomar. I’m no Lusophile but from what I can gather Tomar is a bit of an Iberian Longford – vaguely in the Portuguese Midlands and more affordable than the swankier Algarve.
This is where Molloy brings Leonie and Shane –”seasoned travellers” who’ve decided to make a new life in Portugal with a budget of €250,000.
A quarter of a million would get you a decrepit out-house in some parts of Ireland. Here, Molloy, accompanied by Lisbon architect Frederica Pereira, uncovers far more wallet-friendly alternatives (Molloy’s regular sidekick, Kieran McCarthy, drew the short straw and is back in Ireland).
There’s a quaint cottage-type structure which, as a bonus, features such retro touches as a sagging ceiling and a collapsing floor. “There is black mould,” says Leonie. “There’s a lot of cracks in the stone walls”. If she was Simon Cowell it would be red buzzer time.
Next is a more modern structure. It’s a bargain at €97,500 – but, standing between two busy roads, has all the charm of a 1960s Irish rural prefab. “The whole house is lacking character,” says Leonie with admirable understatement.
The best is saved for last. It’s a four-bed farmhouse