For me, there's no looking back
Published 10/06/2011 | 05:00
When I decided last autumn that the time had come to buy an apartment, I thought about the collapse in property prices and how much I'd be saving in rent, and then I went off on my merry way house-hunting.
I didn't really give much thought to legal fees -- I certainly had no idea I'd end up paying nearly €1,000 to search the Land Registry because I bought an apartment from a consortium of 10.
Management fees didn't feature in my calculations either. I knew they existed, but I didn't factor in how much they eat up.
In addition to a €1,400 bill for my development's fees, I also have to pay a couple of hundred euro a year towards the upkeep of the wider Docklands area.
Then there's the upkeep of the apartment itself. After a decade of renting, I'd taken for granted that when something breaks, it's someone else's problem.
Within weeks of moving in, lights bulbs had come loose from their fixtures, one light switch had popped clean off the wall and the bathroom fans weren't working. Now these are all my problems -- and all my repair bills.
As for house prices, I was so busy looking at how much they had already fallen, that I hadn't given much thought about how far they had left to go.
While I smugly congratulated myself on paying half what my neighbours did, it never occurred to me that someday I too would be that sorry traveller.
That blissful ignorance is gone now -- within six months there was a flat on the market downstairs for about 10pc less than the asking price of mine.
When I took the plunge, I convinced myself my little corner of Dublin, the bustling south docks area, was different than the rest.
Within weeks of moving day, a new salad bar had put up signs on an empty lot downstairs and I felt wonderfully validated.
Today, that lot stands empty, as the salad bar never opened.
Then there's interest rates. As a financial journalist who travels to Frankfurt for the European Central Bank's press conferences, I should have seen the hikes coming.
In my defence, I did, but the 'dying to get on the property ladder Laura' somehow managed not to factor them into her sums.
Swept away with the excitement of getting my own place, I never paused to reflect on how the news I write about could impact on my own circumstances.
Now I've already seen one rate rise and I'm expecting to suffer another two before the year's out, ramping up my mortgage payments by €200 per month.
Then Nama intends to enter the mortgage fray next autumn, promising to make it easier for first-timers to buy.
So did I do the right thing? If I'd given it more thought before I took the plunge last December, would I have gone ahead anyway or waited?
It's a tough call. I did the right thing for me at the time -- I needed a place to live, so I bought one. And, despite the ups and downs, I do still love it.
Undoubtedly, my timing could have been better -- but then my timing was better than that of many friends who bought at the peak.
Calling the top and the bottom of the market is largely a matter of luck, not skill, so it's not something I really beat myself up over.
If there's one thing I would have done differently, it's thinking things through more thoroughly, asking more questions and doing more sums.
If you're a first timer, demand clarity from your solicitor on how many different management charges you'll pay, the identity of the sellers and the cost of checking the property's title.
Snag the place yourself -- a surveyor will look for structural stuff, but they won't turn on all the bathroom fans or stand on the balcony to see if it drips, as I've learned from experience.
Do the sums on the impact of interest rate rises. If prices fall another 10pc this year, will you lose more there than you'd have paid in rent?
It's tedious, but could save you a lifetime of regret and negative equity.
Then, once you've done the boring stuff, let the magic of buying your first home take over and enjoy the delights of Ikea road-trips, painting your own walls and leaving the place in whatever state you like.
And never look back.