We’re trying to buy a house around Dublin but the market is grim

Since the beginning of our relationship, my boyfriend and I have done the long-distance thing. It suited us, I would say, seeing each other every weekend. It made our time together more special.

Then the pandemic happened. In 2020, we didn’t see each other from March until June. Then again from September until Christmas. He left on January 3. I waved him off, not knowing that it would be May before I saw him again. This isn’t an unusual story; thousands of other couples have found themselves in similar circumstances over the last year. We’re lucky, we tell each other, and we count the ways we are lucky — we still have our homes, our jobs.

Most importantly, we have not lost anyone we loved. There are plenty of others who have been wounded by this virus in ways we will never understand.

But still, we agree, the situation is untenable. Documents are gathered, applications are made. We wait to hear back from the bank — ’a mortgage’, we say, ‘how very grown up’. This is what Ireland has done to its young people, that the mere prospect of getting a mortgage in your 30s seems like science fiction — and a decision must be made. Because his job is based in Dublin and my job is wherever I put my laptop down, that decision has to involve me leaving my beloved west Cork. I make certain demands of him, pushing my luck. I want to feel like I’m still somewhat rural, I tell him. If I look out my window, I want to be able to pretend I still live in the country. I would like to be within 15 minutes’ drive of a beach, any beach at all.

Of course, all these demands seem utterly ludicrous once we start looking. 

I scroll through a litany of increasingly grim houses, mouth agape at the condition some of them are in. I can’t help but imagine some poor old person living in such squalor as their relatives waited for them to die. 

I send screenshots to friends. €495k for… what amounts to a building site? €600k for a house that would cost 250k (at a stretch!) in any other part of the world? The houses are bland, the architecture dated, so few interesting design choices have been made. And yet despite this, everything is so expensive.

To make matters worse — for the buyer, at least –the property market hasn’t been this busy since the Boom. We see a house we like and we email the estate agent. He is suspiciously relaxed in his reply. No, they’re not doing viewings in-person. Offers are being made based on the four-minute video of the property, which is now €50k above asking price.

We see another house we like. No offers have been made, we are told, but less than 12 hours later, she emails again. They have received their first offer, she says. It’s €85k above the asking price. This is the moment when I begin to get cold-feet. I remember the crash too well, I can recall the stories of people saddled with ‘starter houses’ they’d bought for too much money, desperate to get their foot on the property ladder. I don’t want that to happen to us.

There’s definitely a point to be made about the Irish and our obsession with property — we’re a nation of Bull McCabes, telling ourselves that, “land is all that matters, boy, own your own land,”— but the rental market is also treacherous and over-priced, rife with landlords who are Dickensian in their miserliness.

It would make you wonder if this country hates everyone under the age of 40, wants to keep us on our hands and knees, grateful for any scraps the Government might throw our way. (Co-living spaces — sorry I mean “trendy boutique hotels” — anyone?) In a conversation with a friend of mine, a woman in her late 30s who cannot afford to buy a house by herself in Dublin, despite her excellent job, we agree that it is infantilising to expect single people to simply house share for the rest of their lives.

An analysis by Newstalk’s reporter, Paul O’Donoghue, shows that for a single person on a median wage in the area they live, houses are only affordable in 7 of the 26 counties here in the Republic: Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Longford, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo.

That was with a deposit of 20%. With a deposit of 10% — which is what most first-time buyers would be aiming for — the average single person would only be able to afford in four counties. We’ve spent the last year being told to ‘Stay at Home’ to save lives and the majority of us have done our best to comply.

But in turn, it’s made us look a little more closely at the homes we do have and wondering if this is the most we can expect to hope for. I’m not the first person to say this and I won’t be the last but we need affordable housing or long-term, rent-controlled properties, neither of which are available to us.

Is the Government ever going to change that?

Louise says 

BUY: Tickets for The Saviour, a blistering new play by Deirdre Kinahan. Live broadcasts from June 19-20. See landmarkproductions.ie 

READ: The Murder of Graham Catton by Katie Lowe is about a true crime podcast attempting to expose the wife of a dead man as his murderer and it is utterly unputdownable.

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