Thursday 20 June 2019

Ailish O'Hora: I got burned in the last property bubble – here's what not to do

Seven years on, it's time to raise the red flag again – there are all the signs that a bubble market is developing in the capital
Seven years on, it's time to raise the red flag again – there are all the signs that a bubble market is developing in the capital

Ailish O'Hora

LET the latest property price figures from the Central Statistics Office serve as a cautionary tale for anyone looking to dip their toe in the property market, particularly in the capital.

It seems the Irish are still obsessed with the concept of home ownership, despite the bust.

I know – I was there.

Right at the height of the boom, I bought my two-bed townhouse in Finglas and I have the negative-equity scars to prove it.

Instead of heeding my best instincts and lots of concrete evidence, I was determined to get my foot on that ladder.

The urge to own my own home was stronger than the many warning signs that I, and many others, chose to ignore. But I was driven by a fear that I wouldn't get a mortgage – that I would be priced out of the market.

At the time, the lending market was already showing signs of drying up and I didn't want to be left behind.

But looking back, I had no excuse really.

I was deputy business editor of the Irish Independent back then so I was at the coalface of the problems surrounding the economy and the housing market.

Still, that nagging fear of losing out won over in the end. I had been gazumped on a house in Christmas 2005 but rather than let that serve as a warning signal it just made me more determined to buy a house. I had allowed myself to become emotionally involved, I now believe.

As, it would appear now, so had a large chunk of the Irish population.

In any kind of business transaction, that is never a good thing. So now, seven years on, it's time to raise the red flag – again.

There are all the signs in the world at the moment that a market bubble is developing in the capital.

Prices in Dublin and its suburbs shot up by 8pc in the year to July.

In the month of July alone prices jumped by 3.3pc – the highest rise in eight years.

And apartment prices rose by even greater amounts as buyers competed for a limited number of properties.

Even if prices and the housing market are at historic lows and the attention is focused on three-bedroom family properties, it's time to take a step back.

The reasons are manifold.

The house price increases are not supported by a corresponding recovery in mortgage lending figures from the banks.

Nor are there any signs of higher transaction numbers.

In addition, there are no signs of a significant pick-up outside Dublin.

And property experts are reporting that up to 100 people are showing up for each viewing in South Dublin, while some people with mortgage approvals are finding that Dublin prices are moving beyond the amounts banks were prepared to lend them.

A sustainable recovery in the property market is to be widely welcomed and will boost long-term consumer confidence.

Let's face it, we have recession fatigue and are sick to the back teeth of these straitened times.

But a sustained recovery in the housing market will be driven only by better employment prospects and disposable incomes, although recent statistics that show the labour market has stabilised should also be welcomed.

Now that the budgetary and pay cuts have kicked in and nearly all the treats have dried up, I can't help sometimes feeling a little resentful towards the house – at the risk of sounding ridiculous.

Don't get me wrong.

I appreciate having my own front door, a place to call my own (sort of) and I love Finglas. I also appreciate that I am in a much better position than thousands of other people around the country – although having the satisfaction of getting what must have been one of the last tracker mortgages in the country also helps.

As a paid-up member of the so-called 'coping classes', I feel that highlighting these warning signals is important, although a sustainable recovery of the property market should be welcomed with open arms. And while I would not call buying my house a mistake, warning potential home owners to take a cold look at the facts before they make one of the biggest decisions in their lives is probably as good a bit of advice as I can give.

Irish Independent

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