Broken rungs of the property ladder forcing trapped couples into booming rental market
A FRIEND of mine was once advised by her uncle that if she had money, she should buy land.
"Because they're not making any more of it," she was told.
But during the boom times, land became the most expensive commodity in the country and far out of the reach of many.
So many young people opted to get on the property ladder by buying apartments instead -- or "very expensive air between four walls" as I heard a builder describe them once. And now that air has trapped thousands of young families.
Couples have found that while an apartment once suited their needs, the addition of a baby, a buggy, a cot, a car seat, a steriliser . . . and the scores of other items that arrive with a bundle of joy mean an apartment is just too small.
And for those who stuck with their dream of having a house but sacrificed on location, many are now spending hours every week commuting simply to get to and from work.
For these young people, the three bed semi-detached house in a 'good' area is top of their wish list.
They don't want anything too fancy -- just enough space to live comfortably, a small garden to which they can banish squabbling children, and good transport links so they don't have to spend hours every day getting to work or the shops.
I have a number of friends who bought apartments in the boom time in an attempt to get on to the property ladder. It was a temporary move, they said. We'll be moving up the property ladder to a house soon, they said.
But everyone else had the same plan. And still does.
The areas of the country that were popular during the Celtic Tiger era are still popular now and it is becoming increasingly difficult to buy a family home in a mature area which has established schools and transport links.
One friend moved with her husband from their apartment to a rented house shortly after getting married. It had everything they wanted in terms of space and location. But the landlord put the house up for sale and soon found a buyer.
So the hunt was on for a new house. At that stage, they were expecting a baby and had two months to find a new home in their desired area of south Dublin.
They saw scores of properties and it was immediately obvious that the first person to view each house snapped it up.
It was a landlord's market and they began to recognise couples at the viewings, each with the same look of desperation that they had.
The shortage was so bad that they began to ring estate agents who were selling properties, offering to sign a three-year lease.
Their hunt only ended after they bullied an estate agent into showing them a house before another couple. She rubbed her ever-expanding belly, sighed about how hard it was to find a family home, and promised they'd be staying put for years.
They signed for it on the spot.
It has everything they want -- four bedrooms, a huge garden, space for two cars, and it's near the DART line.
But they know that they will never be able to afford to buy it.
They own an apartment which is in negative equity and no bank will give them a mortgage.
And even if they could get a mortgage, it would not cover the cost of the kind of family home they want. Yes, those kind of homes are much cheaper than they once were, but they're still far out of the reach of your average couple.
Their landlord told them that he has owned the house for over 20 years and in all that time not a single house in the estate has gone up for sale.
And any in neighbouring areas which go up for sale are snapped up quickly by young couples.
At the end of the day, my friend's uncle was right about buying land -- but it still comes down to location, location, location.