Thursday 17 October 2019

'We struggle to save because our rent has gone up' - meet the house hunters hoping to find their dream home


Catherine and Barry Farrell, Newgate, Crossakiel, Kells, County Meath. Photo: Bryan Meade
Catherine and Barry Farrell, Newgate, Crossakiel, Kells, County Meath. Photo: Bryan Meade
Jason Nolan and family are ready to make the move from rental in Mayo. Photo: Bryan Meade
Janet Carroll and her husband Luke hope to acquire their dream three bedroom home locally
D4-based author Marisa Mackle is heading to the wilds of Clare. Photo: Anthony Woods

Deirdre Reynolds

ARE you thinking of buying a property in 2019? You're not alone; whether you're looking to buy for the very first time and get out of rental, whether you're trading up or down or looking to buy a second property for a project or an investment.

Much has changed in the property market in the last 12 months with Dublin price inflation finally starting to cool somewhat, but only after breaking through the affordability barrier and leaving many looking further afield in a bid to find a big enough family home for which they can get a mortgage under the Central Bank's lending measures.

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But if you can do it, there's never been a better time to buy - given that rents now far exceed what they were even at the height of the boom, meaning it's not feasible for many to rent in the capital. Galway City and to a lesser extent Cork City are also hitting affordability thresholds and old agri based towns like Tuam and Mallow are fast becoming dormer towns. Those first timers looking to acquire new homes will also have to get in fast with the 20pc benefits obtainable under Help to Buy having been extended to the end of this year.

Against this fraught atmosphere, we talked to four sets of prospective buyers who hope to find their dream home in 2019 to discuss their challenges, concerns and plans.

To find out how much your house is worth in 2019, click here


The first-time buyers | Budget: €200,000

Jason Nolan and family are ready to make the move from rental in Mayo. Photo: Bryan Meade

‘The wedding is a nice idea but the house is the priority’

Wedding videographer Jason Nolan, who runs Jason Nolan Wedding Films, and fiancée Dace Talberga, a hairdresser, are searching for a home in Co Mayo:

"We're doing everything backwards: we had a little boy, Arthur, eight months ago, we're getting married next April and the house hopefully will be this year. We have two older girls, Laura (12) and Anne (9), as well.

The wedding is a nice idea, but with a small family, the house really is the priority for us. Hopefully we'll have that sorted before the wedding. We're renting a five-bed detached house just outside Castlebar at the moment. It's €850 per month.

When we first moved in three years ago, that was high, but now it's nothing. We're pretty lucky in Mayo insofar as there does seem to be some decent houses that are within budget.

Every time I look, I find houses and go, 'Yeah, that's a nice house', 'Yeah, I'd like that house', so I don't think supply would be an issue down here. If we wanted a three-bed semi in town, that'd be no problem. If we can get an extra little bit in the deposit, we might be able to squeeze a better house out of it.

Our dream home would be something like what we're renting now: a four or five- bedroom house a couple of miles outside the town. The house we're in, for example, is on sale for €275,000.

Realistically, we'll probably be looking at €200,000 as a kind of a ballpark. I had a meeting a couple of years back with somebody in the bank. They advised me what I needed to have done and how I needed to have my accounts looking.

Being self-employed, I knew I needed a couple of years of nice, healthy-looking accounts with the business and personal accounts; so I've been working on that. Saving has been tricky enough sometimes, we had to dip into it at times, but we're in a good position now.

A lot of people say, 'It's great renting - if something breaks, you ring the landlord'. But I'm the opposite to that; I'd love to be able to put up a shelf whenever I wanted to, paint walls, and just little things like that. Another major reason we want to get on the ladder now is the Help to Buy scheme being extended to the end of 2019. We're both first-time buyers, so missing that would be terrible. The goal is to be in our new home by the end of the year."

The self builders searching for a site  |  Budget: €250,000

‘Even now we’re struggling to continue to save because our rent has gone up’

Catherine and Barry Farrell, Newgate, Crossakiel, Kells, County Meath. Photo: Bryan Meade

Nurse Catherine Farrell and husband Barry, who works at Slane Distillery, are searching for land to build a home in Co Meath:

"We lived in Galway for 10 years before recently moving back to Barry's homeplace in Meath. While living in Galway, we were approved for a mortgage for six months, and started actively looking for houses. There was about a month left on it, and we were looking at one house, and talking about putting an offer in on it.

Then we actually changed our minds and said, 'Look, if we do buy a house in Galway, we're going to have no family around us', as well as the pressure of over €1,000 back in mortgage payments each month. Even now, we're kind of struggling to continue to save because our rent has gone up since we moved up here to Meath.

In Galway, we had the same landlord for five years, who only put the rent up once, and it was still under €1,000. Now we're paying €1,300 a month for a three-bedroom house in Ballinlough.

Luckily, we have our deposit saved, which is brilliant. Talking to family members helped us a lot because we didn't have a clue starting off looking for a mortgage. Basically we went around all the different banks in the city, got the paperwork required for each bank and sat down and had an appointment with each of them.

In the end, we went with KBC who approved us for €250,000. For Galway city, that was very low - very few properties were under that. A couple of houses we were looking at in our own housing estate were at €235,000. Then when we went to see them and there were already bids in of €240,000 and €243,000, almost at the maximum of what we could afford. Straight away, there's bidding wars over them.

One house we went to see, had 12 other people as well as us looking at it at the time. The auctioneer said, 'Oh, we've already taken three offers'. So we started looking in Kells at houses in estates. A lot of them were less than €200,000, and you could do them up. Now we've changed again and we're actually at the stage of saying we'd like to build, so we've recently started looking at sites.

When the six months mortgage approval lapsed, it was definitely disappointing. But it did open our eyes as to what properties were out there and what prices they were going for.

Hopefully our experiences will make it less stressful when we go for reapproval in the next couple of months and go back out looking again!"


The ‘Right sizers’  |  Budget: €1.3m

‘We expect to buy for around same price as we get for our own home’

Janet Carroll and her husband Luke hope to acquire their dream three bedroom home locally

A couple of empty nesters relocating in the same neighbourhood:

Estate agent Janet Carroll started a boutique agency in south Dublin soon after the property crash. She and her husband Luke, an international business manager, have raised four children in their large detached house in Blackrock. Soon to be empty nesters, they plan to sell up and find something more manageable - but just as dreamy - in their local neighbourhood.

The couple have clear ideas already about what their future home should offer. "It must be close to town and amenities, be low maintenance, secure, and have three bedrooms, compared with the current five," says Janet. But don't call them downsizers! Unlike regular downsizers, they plan to spend all of the proceeds of the sale on their new property. "I don't see it in terms of downsizing and upsizing," says the estate agent. "To me it's all about right-sizing, finding a property that meets our needs. We're trading across, moving within the area to a property that will be a better fit for our lifestyle.

"With children and grandchildren in Boston, Dubai and Ireland, we'll have visitors of course; but we don't need five bedrooms. Three would be fine - one luxurious bedroom, a spare room that could also be used as a storeroom, and a guest room. There's a penthouse in Carysfort Park that I've had my eye on for a while. It's a lock-up-and-go duplex, which would be perfect. We expect to buy for around the same price we get for our own house, which would be benchmarked at around €1.3m."

They'll have to wait a while as their second youngest son Michael and his family are currently living with them while their own house in Dalkey is being renovated, but as soon as they move out Janet and Luke are set to put 23 Lindenvale, Proby Square, on the market. At 2,152 sq ft, the gated property has five bedrooms and two attic rooms currently used as a study and home office.

"It's too big for us," says Janet. "It was fine when the kids were growing up, but now we're in our fifties, we want a more size-appropriate place that will be a good fit for us and can adapt to our needs as we get older.

"Nobody knows what the empty nest syndrome is like until you experience it. Once filled with noise and laughter, rooms fall silent, and there's a kind of loneliness for the life you no longer have. This is our time to move and in doing so, we'll free up a family home that will serve another growing family. It's walking distance of Carysfort National School and on the bus and Dart routes."

Interview by Celine Naughton


Moving to the country | Budget: €400,000

‘Hopefully I’ll be no more than a 20-minute walk from the sea  and the shops’

D4-based author Marisa Mackle is heading to the wilds of Clare. Photo: Anthony Woods

Novelist and single mum Marisa Mackle is searching for a home in Co Clare:

"After a lifetime of city living, it's time to move. I've my heart set on the seaside, preferably in West Clare. I've always loved living in Dublin 4 - I can be in the city in a matter of minutes, and there's always someone to meet up with for coffee and a drink.

But as I've got older the lure of bright city lights has gradually faded, and I find now I'm more drawn to wide open spaces, and nature. I live in Donnybrook and the traffic is pretty terrible. Every year I think it can't get worse and then it does. At night it's very quiet but during the day it's like a car park. I'm a writer so peace and quiet is essential to me.

I was in Clare over Christmas and I loved the way I could see the stars at night. I bought a holiday home near the sea there a few years ago. It was a really random decision. I spotted an ad online and drove down to see the house.

I put in an offer the next day and a week later it was accepted. I moved my stuff in within weeks and it was all very straightforward as I was a cash buyer. The house wasn't turnkey but that was fine. I have a good imagination and I think I'm good at spotting potential.

I had fun doing it up. I prefer old properties to brand new ones so my next home doesn't have to be in walk-in condition. I am definitely not looking forward to all the packing that goes along with buying and selling, mind you! I swim all year round so I need to be near the sea.

My son Gary (9) is excited moving. He loves Clare as well. I want to move now because when he's a bit older he may not like the idea of changing school.

I haven't found my ideal new home yet and I have been looking for a while. I'd like to permanently move this summer but won't rush anything.

Luckily, I don't have to deal with the hassle of applying for a mortgage. I am ideally seeking a detached house with a spacious garden for my pets. Hopefully I will be no more than a 20-minute walk from the sea and also the shops. I don't want to use my car every time I run out of milk!"

Irish Independent

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