“Go find 10 recent articles written on the Irish property market and see if you can find an answer.” This is the advice given to me recently when I went looking for advice on the best time to try and buy a house. I was warned that I would not find a consensus: 10 different answers, each tinged with gloom.
My homeownership journey has only just begun and it’s already fraught with gloom. I’m a single woman paying $1,200 a month in rent, splitting the bills with no one, and earning far less than most people imagine a successful author might earn. – long-term safety is never guaranteed. Buying a house in Dublin or its surrounding counties is not on the cards for me, and that’s okay. I’ve been planning to move west for several years now, long before all my haters took a break during the pandemic and bought all the gloriously renovated cottages I had in mind. Those that look small from the front but have three bedrooms, a very spacious kitchen and a laundry room. And yes, those wooden beams in the bathroom are original, please ask.
My thoughts about buying a home are increasingly clouded with desperation. While doing my homework and reading the 10 articles, I learned that the Institute for Economic and Social Research says that one in two people between the ages of 24 and 35 will not own a home when they retire. . I am a few years past the age limit, which only compounds the fear of uncertainty and unworthiness in old age without a fully paid roof over your head. Meanwhile, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has reported that while rising property prices are expected to ease, most properties will remain out of reach for middle-income earners. And for first-time buyers? Well, you might as well not bother. Sure, there’s the government’s new buyer’s aid program for starters, but that only covers new build, and if there’s anything we know about this housing crisis, it’s is that there is not enough new construction to even shave the complete demand.
Ah yes, the government. Frustratingly obtuse about all things accommodation. Committed to buzzing about ‘units’ and ‘skills’ as dangerous-sounding cuckoo and vulture bottoms invade and steal the underfloor heating from beneath our feet. In all honesty, more units is the answer, but we lack a sense of urgency. We want to hear that they are building more houses! Relax scheduling restrictions! Tax vacant homes! Protect the tenants! Successive government policies that prioritize profit over people have led to a crisis that has homelessness at its critical center and extends to people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and stuck in retirement in rental situations and unsuitable housing that offer neither comfort nor dignity.
The mortgage application process has an oral history similar to that of the brave hobbits who travel to the hellish landscape of Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings
Gone are the days when leaving Dublin to buy a house was the solution to affordability issues. Now the whole country is an affordability problem. In my 10-item wanderlust, I came across a piece offering a selection of what was on offer in Ireland for under €200,000. There were a few decent semi-ds – one in Cavan, one in Limerick – but anecdotally we can assume competitive cash buyers didn’t send the price above the €200,000 threshold for long. The only one in the capital was a postage stamp-sized one-bedroom terraced cottage in Dublin 8, which cost around 37 cents under the €220,000 cap. It came with whimsical language about renovation potential and deep modernization, but looked like a neglected garage. It will probably eventually be sold for €600,000 and described on the property pages as a “jewel of delight”. It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the hypocrisy of the media bemoaning the state of the housing market and the crisis, while supporting absurd standards and prices for clicks and ad revenue.
As I contemplate applying for my first mortgage, my attention shifts from the nebulous monster of the housing crisis to the more particular hell of demand. The mortgage application process has an oral history similar to that of the brave hobbits who travel to the hellish landscape of Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. Everyone who has been there tells of the endless search for documents, imprinted in elven blood and embraced by the wings of a unicorn bat. Oh, and have you bought a scratch card in the last 27 years? Well, you won’t pass…in the mortgage approval club.
If I manage to pull it off I suspect I could only summon enough mortgage power to buy a small rock site in the Sligo countryside, but at least it will be my small rock site in the Sligo countryside. Nothing that a log cabin and a guard dog can’t beautify. Maybe I’ll get off the grid? There’s no incentive like going into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to really bolster the anti-capitalist sentiment that homeownership is a scam.