THERE are lots of people like me in Ireland. You may be one of them. Does the follwing description sound like you? You're 50 years old and own a house that has accumulated a substantial amount of equity. For a whole host of reasons you're keen to use this equity to invest in other properties that would boost your pension potential.
At this stage in one's life, the prospect of taking what - at first sight - seems to be a huge financial gamble is a bit scary. But one has to speculate to accumulate, so the saying goes. Why would I, or you, want to do this?
Firstly: insecurity. The current plan is that when the time comes to retire we could simply "downsize" and then use what cash is left over from the house sale to boost our pension. But once that cash is gone, it's gone forever. You can't invest your cash in May and hope to have enough interest to live on for a year by July (unless you're talking eight-figure numbers - and believe me, in our case, we're not).
Secondly: jealousy. It seems every dog and devil on the street is putting together a "portfolio" of properties. It feels like every spotty adolescent you meet owns houses on four continents, and is thus RICH! And I want to be "comfortably well off" like that. But there are one or two little obstacles between me and property wealth. * Our actual cash life savings amount to about ?11.
* I know nothing about property buying, selling, or renting.
* I'm afraid of gambling with as much as 25% of our home's worth, putting us in the workhouse in our dotage. It turns out that the first problem is nothing to worry about. In today's white-hot economic environment not having any cash is not really a problem. There isn't, it would seem, a bank in the land that isn't falling over itself to shower us with cheap cash.
It took 40 minutes for Richard Barrett at Permanent TSB on St Stephen's Green to agree to bung me a quick quarter million. Now that's service.
The second problem was a bit more worrying. Oh, yes, you can watch every episode of Househunters and read all the financial pages you like, but what you really want is someone to hold your hand and guide you through the purchasing process.
Thirdly, it's time to stop being a complete chicken and live a little.
Serendipity provided a solution in the form of 'Empire Property Services'.
This is a new company which has been formed specifically to take property amateurs (like me) and turn us into property magnates (like I want to be). Simon Palmer, one of the company's directors, called on a work-related issue. As he explained his company's operations, I realised this was what I needed.
I've got the cash (in principle). And now, in the form of Empire I've got the experts who are going to hold my hand (I hope).
Now all I have to do is get over the fear, and take the plunge.
More next week.