'I finally found a place to live - after eight weeks of stress'
House-hunter Claire McCormack is left shocked as the cost of renting in Dublin soars by up to €400 in just 12 months
HOUSE-hunting in Dublin is always tough but this year has been exceptional, as I discovered to my cost. High prices, high demand and low stock has put aspiring renters like me in a very stressful situation.
From Sandymount to Finglas and everywhere in between, finding somewhere decent, safe and with a reasonable commute to town for less than €1,300 is literally as good as it gets.
Like most young professionals in today's market, I now find myself under serious pressure to budget for the rest of the month once my rent is paid. You don't realise how dire and impossible the situation is until you are thrust into the middle of it.
As a city centre worker, I was happy to broaden my rental radius when my lease came to an end this month. I've spent many happy years living in Portobello, Capel Street, Rathmines, Harold's Cross and Glasnevin, so I didn't have a preference north or south of the River Liffey. But after weeks of scrolling through unaffordable options on all the popular online accommodation sites - daft.ie, rent.ie, myhome.ie - a new sense of panic started to creep in.
Why do prices keep going up? Will I have to live in sub-standard accommodation? How much will I have to spend on my commute? How much will bills cost on top of rent? How much will the water charges add? Will I be able to afford food from the nice part of the shop? What if I actually can't find a place?
These are some of the very real questions facing young professionals, from all over the country, who find themselves caught in the tight grip of the capital's rental crisis.
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According to daft.ie, Ireland's biggest property website, rental prices in Dublin have soared by more than 15pc in the last year. On top of that, less and less properties are available.
This desperate situation means that young professionals, students and some young families are all competing for the same overpriced space.
After two months of stress and worry, trawling online for updates, I eventually found a few properties I could potentially afford. But finding them is only the start of a long and anxious process. Gone are the days of dealing solely with landlords, calling them up, arranging a single viewing and then taking time to consider all of your options before making a decision.
Nowadays, the minute you see a property you practically need to have the keys in the ignition, cash in your hand - a deposit plus one month's rent - and a folder full of work references and bank statements to prove that you are a trustworthy citizen.
Most viewings are done in groups arranged either by the letting agent or, in some cases, by the property owners themselves.
This week, I attended a number of viewings for two-bedroom apartments in Glasnevin, Drumcondra, Phibsborough and Finglas - and the competition was fierce. Young families, young professionals and students were all competing for the same space worth around €1,400 a month.
Despite the opportunity to weigh up your rental competition, open viewings are incredibly stressful and awkward and often lead to impulse decisions.
You are all desperate for accommodation and know that options are limited.
Everyone wants to put their best foot forward, make an impression, ask lots of questions and even hover around afterwards to speak to the agent. But in the end, if you can pay today, move in tomorrow, provide a decent rental record and prove that you're in a good financial position, that's all that really matters.
Some of the properties I viewed had increased by almost €400 a month since checking out similar lettings in the same areas last year.
That's a huge amount for young workers trying to survive in the most expensive city in the country. Rent hikes are also dashing any hopes of saving or actually planning for your future.
As bad as we are, I felt really sorry for students I saw competing with young professionals at viewings. With no rental record and no source of income, parents, in some cases, are being asked to sign their children's lease as guarantors that the rent will be paid. But they too have to produce references.
Edward Thurman, co-founder of CollegeCribs.ie, a dedicated student accommodation website, said: "Less young professionals are buying properties and are choosing to rent instead and that obviously pushes out the students from their typical accommodation."
On one occasion, two international students, equipped with references, even tried to bargain with a letting agent. "We love this place and it's really close to college but can you knock €100 off, we can't afford this price," said a young girl from Germany. In response, the letting agent shook his head and said: "The landlord won't lower the rent when he knows someone else will pay it."
This is the situation on the ground. After years of fighting the recession with education, young professionals hoping to find their feet in Dublin are scuppered once again. With a lot of patience and perseverance I finally found a nice place to live with the bonus of a shop close by and a place to run. Now all I can do is hope the rent won't increase again next year.